I just finished watching the movie Tsotsi with my wife. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t give away too much except to say that it’s a story of redemption. It’s the story of a young man who lives in a shanty town in South Africa whose life is changed after he carjacks someone and takes off in the car only to find a baby in the back seat.
This movie got me thinking about the reasons people do what they do to survive when they are living tough. It is always the poor who get a rough deal, who are blamed for being lazy or good-for-nothing. But it is also those same people who are going through the most incredible hardships. That is not to condone their destructive behaviour, but it definitely is to understand it. There is a huge difference. The ones who really should be criticised are those with a comfortable lifestyle who commit white-collar crime. But they can always afford the best lawyers and so get off more easily.
So I felt somewhat angry after this movie, at those people who lie and corrupt but who never get caught out. Often these people are trusted by many others, and even looked up to by people who have never met them but have heard about their great deeds. It made me think of a question that a preacher lamented about years ago. The question is “who can we believe in anymore?” I sometimes feel that way, but then comes the convicting thought…back at me. They say when you point the finger at someone there are always three fingers pointing back at you. At times it is right and proper to point the finger at someone to expose their lies, but we can’t be judgmental in the sense that we would never do, or have never done, the same thing ourselves. As soon as I begin to feel what I am convinced is a righteous rage against the injustice that someone has caused, I am quickly reminded that I have the same tendencies within me.
St Paul calls us to hate what is evil, but in the same sentence he says before this that love must be sincere. With that in mind, we are to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. We are to hate evil in the person who gets away with lies and injustices, but if we stop there we are not true – to God, to others and to ourselves. It occurs to me that we are to hate what is evil full stop, whether it is in anyone else or in us. Jesus had strong words for those of who get self-righteous about this.
I am pretty regularly reminded of the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, those haunting words that we can never hide away from: “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” When we are sick and tired of being sick and tired, we will finally turn around and come to God on our knees in surrender, realising the jig is up. Our way of life has not been working and there is nothing in our ability we can do to change it. We must run up the white flag of surrender and – in another of the Gospel’s mysterious and gracious paradoxes – gain the life we’ve always been searching for. God help me to be angry at lies and injustice, firstly in myself and then in the hearts of others.