Hopeful reflections on Oscar Pistorius

PHOTO: Daily News

[notice]As the SA justice system weighs the events surrounding the tragic shooting of Reva Steenkamp,
SIFISO MABENA
says that for Christians the end of the matter is not whether Oscar Pistorius committed murder or made a dreadful mistake. As children of God we are called to a different way of thinking and speaking.[/notice]

As particulars surrounding this tragedy unfold I see that the story is adding fuel to several agendas that have captured our country, and indeed the world in this moment.

Gender abuse activists have used the story to give voice to their cry for the protection of women and children. Others are tackling the issue of the seeming preferential treatment given to celebrities and other high profile people. While for some, Oscar Pistorius is yet another sports star to add to a ‘fallen sports heroes’ hall of fame.

Naturally there has been great sensitivity about the story. The most obvious reason being a correct and appropriate respect for the late Reeva Steenkamp.

Waiting for scale to tip
As emotions have swelled during this case there are those who have decided that Oscar Pistorius is another megalomaniac sports star whose misadventures have caught up with him.  Then there are those who, like me, have resolutely sat on the fence declaring that “Nobody knows what really happened. We can’t judge him…yet”. It seems we’re all waiting for the scale to tip so we can neatly label him ‘tragic hero’ or ‘villain’.

As I explored my inability to resolve my own feelings, I was reminded of my frequent interactions with a friend of mine named Jenny. From childhood I’ve had a tendency to adopt a blissful naivety where people are concerned. Consequently, Jenny is constantly telling me to “see her as she is and not through my rose tinted glasses”. She gets embarrassed when I call out all the wonderful qualities I see in her, and proceeds to tell me that not everything about her is perfect. Certainly, following this case, I’ve noticed something in me that wants to absolve Oscar of any wrongdoing in order to keep my worldview intact. Recently when I was talking to Jenny about the case it dawned on me that Oscar has already publicly admitted to killing Reeva by accident. I still reel at the awfulness of the burden he has to carry, but I have come to realise that my anxiety over the story has nothing to do with the fact that he killed his girlfriend. Rather, I am consumed by the need to understand ‘why’ this terrible thing happened. I’m struck by how strongly I long for ‘the scale’ to tip.  My idea is that once the truth is out, the senseless death will make sense to me and I’ll be able to resolve it in my mind with a single story.

Until that happens I am aware of the temptation for my mercy to trickle out in small, apprehensive doses until I know whether he’s a calculating murderer or a typical fearful citizen. End scene. Cut. Single story.

Another way of thinking
As Christians we’re called to another way of thinking. While the world calls for the single story of exclusion and hatred to combat injustice, we’re called to a more complex tale of reconciliation, redemption and restoration. Consider David who after murdering a man over a woman (pre-meditated murder by definition) was redeemed by God and later referred to as “a man after God’s own heart”. We are further instructed by Paul in Galatians 6:1 that “…if anyone is caught in any transgression, [we] who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness”.

For us who are His children our focus is not on whether this tragedy was coldly premeditated or an awful accident. Our focus is on redemption, restoration and reconciliation. This means that when I talk about it, my words should gently speak restoration over everyone involved.

I like what Jessica Jackley had to say about how we see each other in her TED talk when she said: “Believing in each other, really being sure that when push comes to shove that each of us can do amazing things in the world; that is what can make our stories into love stories and our collective stories in to one that continually perpetuates hope and good things for all of us”

Oscar Pistorius’ fame came from displaying the best parts of our humanity. He showed strength to persevere, ability to inspire, the freedom to speak aloud and be heard, will to push past limitations… It is for the ‘amazing things he did in this world’ that we lifted him onto our shoulders as a hero.

Power of words
I’m not making a case for anyone but rather making the point that is summed up in the American expression “called it”. This phrase is often used when something that was spoken in the past eventually comes to pass exactly as it was uttered. James grieves that so often we “bless our Lord and Father [with our tongues], and with [the same tongue] we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3 9).  The lesson is that words find expression in our lives, forming concrete versions of their substance. How many times have we complained about certain groups of people (even races) as failures, criminals, or cheats? Or lamented the direction our country is heading to? Is it merely coincidence that every time we declare these things; stories happen to confirm the ‘validity of our statements’?

The Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 understood that the right words spoken by the right person can transform a suffering person to a healed one. What would happen if we all made a decision to be people who speak only life giving words about Oscar Pistorius, or this nation? How might the Lord use our words to build and restore?

As we mourn the loss of Reeva Steenkamp, let us also unconditionally lift our brother’s head in the face of the despair he is in. Not for any cause, or because he is a well known personality, but because we’re called to shine His light in dark places.

As a nation let us turn from perpetuating violence with careless talk. Rather let us rediscover the eternal value of every human life; and in the ugly face of injustice, instead of throwing stones- be hopeful for the redemption of our every neighbour.

 Believe that each of us can do amazing things in this world! Let it be done to us as we believe.

  • Sifiso Mabena leads the National School Chaplaincy Programme. However this article represents her personal views.

14 Comments

  1. I agree with you. An excolleague’s son of mine caused an accident while driving drunk, that killed one of the occupants in their vehicle. I witnessed his anguish as he tried to express his deep sorrow to the parents of the killed person. He was never the same again. I cannot judge him or anyone else, remembering how I drove home drunk on numerous occasions in the past myself. Today I am just grateful, nobody ever got hurt or killed through my stupidity

    • So true Peter! I think back on things I’ve done that could have hurt me and others and am filled with gratitude for a happy ending.

  2. LET’WAIT UNTIL THE FACTS ARE OUT. IN THE MEANTIME PRAY FOR TRITH , JUSTICE AND MERCY.

  3. Excellent, inspiring article about keeping the main thing the main thing !! Thank you !

  4. A wonderfully insightful and loving article. God is still in control of all this and His glory will be see

  5. Amen to all of what has been said.

  6. Part of restoration involves acknowledging guilt or even acknowledgement of making a bad mistake. If I have true remorse for killing someone, the verdict will be of less importance to me than the pain of the deceased’s family. It is in reaching out to others that God will heal me. What benefit is there in gaining the whole world and losing your soul.

  7. Let he who has no sin cast the first stone

  8. Sifiso: I’m reading you sitting in my living room on a cold winter day in Toronto, and I’m so ashamed. You gentle, clear and inspiring words shame me. I feel moved to repent from my attitude that has come to the fore now that Pistorius is all over the news once again. Thanks to you and one my friends who called my attention to this article.

  9. Thanks Very much for this very insightful article. after reading this I feel so ashamed of my very own judgemental thoughts on this issue. Thank you Gateway News for opning my eyes to a new “way of thinking”

  10. Anger is a thief that seizes control of man’s faculties and uses them blindly and destructively. Usually a man who loses his temper also temporarily loses his ability to think logically.

  11. I for one, having been a victim of domestic abuse, felt a great deal of anger and wrath towards Pistorius – and wanted nothing more than to see him sentenced and ‘paying the price’. Like others whom have commented, thank you for reminding us that no sin is greater than another and we need the love and forgiveness of God in us to enable us to forgive the ‘unforgivable’. Thanks.

  12. Thank you Sifiso and Gateway News. This is my first time reading your news and Sifiso’s article has opened my eyes and may God forgive me because I have already judged mr Pistorius. God bless you!

  13. Reading this was like someone wrote what has been in my heart from the day the news broke. I even posted a comment on the Pistorius website reminding him of God’s love and forgiveness.
    I am in the team of “dreadful mistake” if you want..but no matter what comes out in the end, Judgement belongs to God..we ask for forgiveness and Grace daily and yet find it so hard to forgive our brothers and sisters of the planet. I love the way you have written this Sifiso. Thank you for having the wisdom and courage to bring this understanding.