Mel Gibson who wrote, directed and produced 2004’s The Passion of the Christ was arrested on July 28 in Malibu on suscipicion of driving under the influence. His arrest has produced an uproar in the media because of his alleged anti-Semitic tirade. Speculation that Gibson was anti-Semitic was rampant during the release of his historic, graphic portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus. Many film critics felt that Gibson’s theatrical masterpiece laid the blame at the feet of the Jews for Jesus’ death. Though Gibson denies any charges of anti-Semitism, the accusations dogged him because Gibson’s father is himself an anti-Semite, even claiming that the Holocaust was a hoax. The youngest Gibson’s refusal to distance himself from his father’s claims have only fueled speculation that Gibson is also prejudicial in his views of Jews.

Gibson has since apologized, not only for his recent arrest, but for the PR firestorm brewing because of his alleged disparaging comments about Jews. Gibson said, “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said…I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health.”

I don’t doubt that Mel Gibson is sorry. Aren’t we all when we get exposed publically for our moral failures? However, blaming Gibson’s tirade on his alcoholism falls short of the root of the problem. Without question, an inebriated state will cause the drunk to say and do things they might not do under normal circumstances, but isn’t it entirely possible, yes, likely plausible, that the actions of a person under the influence, while not characteristic of a sober person with a certain persona or image to maintain, are still the desires, however unbridled, of the heart? The abuse of outside agents such as alcohol and mind-altering drugs only release the moral restraints of the conscience and expose the depravity of heart whose deceit and corruption is blind to even us (Jer 17:9).

Is Mel Gibson anti-Semitic? I don’t know because I don’t know Mel Gibson’s heart. I know that I did not feel that his film The Passion of the Christ was anti-Semitic. But I do know that Jesus tells us that a tree is known by its fruit. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt 12:34b-35).

Is Mel Gibson a believer in the Lord Jesus? I don’t know. What I do know is that it appears his heart was speaking on the evening of July 28 when he berated an arresting officer with allegedly anti-Semitic remarks. What I do know is that, if he spewed the despicable words allegedly on record, it speaks to an evil within his heart in need of the transforming power of the Gospel. Let us not forget that Gibson’s public folly is not unlike the evil and corruption within the hearts of all people. The problem of the heart is precisely why Jesus came into the world. He came to give us a new heart so that we might love, know and treasure God through His Son Jesus above all things (Jer 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Gibson’s tirade is the kind of celebrity meltdown that sells newspapers. It’s easy to judge a man when his transgressions are front page headlines. But let us not forget that we will all be exposed one day, not in the court of public opinion, but in the one court that really matters (Heb 4:13; 9:27). With this in mind, perhaps instead of shaking our heads and wagging our fingers at Gibson in shame, we should pray for him, and while we do, be reminded that we need Jesus and His cross to give us the kind of heart that loves the good treasure of God’s Kingdom more than the evil treasure of earthly pleasure, fame and comfort. Isn’t this precisely what Gibson’s depection of a suffering, bleeding, loving Savior reminded us of in 2004?

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