A Lesson from (sigh) the Oscars: “Love will make you do crazy things.” Really?

OK. This is not meant as encouragement to watch the Oscars each year. The audience levels for the Oscars are dying, and they should be allowed to die. But when something newsworthy (or “newsworthy,” with appropriate quote marks) happens during them, there is can be something to learn from it. Here’s a hot take about last night’s.

If you’ve missed the “news”: Comedian Chris Rock made a joke at the expense of Jada Smith’s hair loss, and Will Smith walked up on stage and slapped him hard across the face then sat down and yelled an obscenity or two. Now everyone is online saying “Boo Chris!” or “Boo Will!” and making proclamations like “Violence is never acceptable” or “He was right to defend his wife”—and I don’t want to wade into that specific stuff for this quick post. Not that there isn’t much to be said, but I’d prefer a time when temps are cooler and people might be willing to actually think instead of feel and react (feeling and reacting being the most popular substitutes for thinking these days). However, I can’t help but take advantage of the moment to make at least one comment.

In accepting his award for Best Actor only minutes later, Will Smith essentially excused his action by saying, “Love will make you do crazy things.” Well, yes and no. It’s worth unpacking. I’ll endeavor to keep it short.

First, it is true that love—whether of the brotherly, the romantic, or the divine and unconditional variety—is powerful and should not be embraced without recognizing the power it has. For instance, concerning romantic love, in the Song of Solomon, King Solomon repeatedly writes the Shulammite’s warning, “I charge you… do not stir up nor awaken love until it pleases” (e.g., Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). Because romantic love is serious and powerful, it should be handled with care and not engaged in thoughtlessly and played with unwisely. And, as for divine unconditional love, it was powerful enough to move the Father and the Son to create a plan in which the Son, Jesus Christ, would allow Himself to be tortured to death for our sake—something this time of year, the weeks leading up to Passover, should bring to mind, whether we are baptized or not. So, yes, love moves us to do things that can seem extreme. (In Song of Solomon, love moves the Beloved to tell the Shulammite that her teeth remind him of sheep. Sheep. Sounds extreme to me!) And not all extreme things are bad, to be sure.

However, the implication that our actions, whatever they may be, gain some sort of justification when we claim that “love” moved us to do them is utterly wrong. Painfully wrong. Harmfully wrong. Some of the dumbest, most harmful to others, and most self-destructive actions in history have been taken by individuals who claimed to be doing them for love.

For one thing, it may not truly be love that is motivating us. Some actions we take that we might believe are motivated by love may actually be motivated by our selfishness and pride, for instance. (If it seems hard to believe you could be so self-deceived, then take a dose of Jeremiah 17:9 and call me in the morning.)

But, further still, our actions should be regulated by a conscience we have striven to educate and shape over time to correspond to God’s own conscience. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). And any action we take—even if we believe it is motivated by love—that does not correspond with what He would desire of us is not truly stirred by real love and cannot be justified with statements like “Love will make you do crazy things.” “Crazy things” is a broad category, and it is rarely used to describe actions we can be rightfully proud of or actions God would approve of. And love, as God would have us live it, doesn’t generally “make” us do things for which we must apologize later.

And that doesn’t even consider the whole fallacy of being “made” to do things we are freely choosing to do. That’s a great discussion to have, but I wanted to keep this short.

So, don’t get caught up in the emotion-based commentary concerning last evening’s “news” from the Oscars. The world has enough emotion-based non-thinking going on already—no need for you to contribute to it. Keep your brain engaged, and ask God to help you learn to direct your thoughts and judgments to correspond to His thoughts and judgments. And, specific to this particular moment, don’t let dumb statements like “Love will make you do crazy things” become your excuse for choosing actions that the love of God would never prompt you to take.