The Oscar trial and our thoughts

windowontheword[notice]A new monthly column by Michael Cassidy, evangelist, author, Christian leader and founder of African Enterprise whose ministry in Africa and the world has spanned more than 50 years.[/notice]

Not only South Africa, but the whole world it seems, is caught up in this sad and lamentable saga of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial.

The whole case of innocent or guilty rests on what his “thoughts” were at the time of the violent, tragic happening.  What was in his mind?  Were his “thoughts’ focussed into shooting an intruder, or reacting wildly and irrationally to provocative things said to him during a lover’s quarrel?

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The trial is all about thoughts. And I guess all of us would be pretty stressed out if we were put on trial for the thoughts which proceeded through our minds on any given day.  Or how would we feel if our thoughts through any given week were projected onto a TV screen on Sunday night for national viewing?

To reflect speculatively on such a scenario makes us quickly realise that our thought-world and our minds constitute the major battleground of moral and spiritual life.

Hidden world
A recent reading of Dallas Willard’s classic The Renovation of the Heart has set me thinking much and afresh about the hidden world of our thoughts, feelings, ambitions, and motives.  Willard notes that “As we first turned away from God in our thoughts, so it is in our thoughts that the first movements toward the renovation of the heart occur.  Thoughts are the place where we can and must begin to change.  There the light of God first begins to move upon us through the word of Christ, and there the divine Spirit begins to direct our will to more and more thoughts that can provide the basis for choosing to realign ourselves with God and His way.  The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow or require our minds to dwell upon.”

Obviously our thoughts occupy and control the motivational centre of our lives, utterances and behaviour.  “They determine”, adds Willard, “the orientation of everything we do and evoke the feelings that frame our world and motivate our actions.  Interestingly, you can’t evoke thoughts by feeling a certain way, but you can evoke and to some degree control feelings by directing your thoughts.  Our power over our thoughts is of great and indispensable assistance in directing and controlling our feelings, which themselves are not directly under the guidance of our will.  We cannot just choose our feelings.”

So coming back to the Oscar trial, perhaps it also puts us on trial in terms of our own thoughts, and thought processes, and feelings, even as the media thrust all the trial’s gory details before our minds.  What do we find ourselves thinking?  Feeling?

For one thing, I know I want to protect myself in measure from having my mind fixated or inundated via our nightly news services with every unsavoury detail presented now to a worldwide viewership.  So I’ve told my wife I do not want every night to watch the front-end of the news headlines which will for sure be the Oscar trial.  My mind doesn’t need that, and won’t benefit from that unnecessary contamination day after day.

I have likewise urged the Editor of our local newspaper not to make the trial the daily headline story.  And he has agreed.  Today it was on page eight.  Thank you, Sir.

Then reflect for a moment on the world delight that instead of the trial being held in camera, it would be televised in full for any who wanted to watch all day and every day.  This creates opportunity for an orgy of highly unhealthy and fleshly voyeurism for people who will do just that – watch all day and every day – feeding their minds on either glee over a wretched man’s troubles, and lusting for full legal retribution, or else vicariously entertaining and feeding hidden inner and perhaps secret impulses of their own related to sex or violence, or both.

Christian response
So how should the Christian respond?  First of all, I believe with prayer for the accused, whether guilty or not guilty, and for both the Steenkamp and Pistorius families.  They have been overtaken by an epic tragedy of Greek or Shakespearian proportions.  With this prayer will go both compassion and empathy.

Then we pray for all involved in the formal legal processes for true justice, perhaps tempered with mercy, to prevail.  And certainly no miscarriage of justice.

Then as South Africans our thoughts need to focus responsibly into why South Africa is such a violent society.  What are the root causes?  How can these be addressed?  How can the minds of violent people be tamed, controlled, changed, reached and converted to Christ?

Finally, we have to refocus back into ourselves, our own minds, our own thoughts, our own secret worlds and ask God to help us, perhaps by new and determined initiatives of memorising scripture, to “set (our) minds on the things of the Spirit.”  Because “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).  Put differently, “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Yes, Lord, help.  Please help us capture all of our thoughts for you.



  1. Pingback: Daily Devotionals, March 11, 2014 | The Eternal Life Series

    • Bravo Michael for sage and godly comment which I believe comes from the heart of God. These times require careful thinking and redemptive responses to the tragedies of life and urging prayer into this trial seems to be the very thing that will bring order into the chaos of this story.

    • Well said! It is so easy to get caught up in hype and everyone has their own opinion on the trial and what the outcome is going to be. You are right we should rather be praying for these people and the proceedings instead of spending our time gossiping and speculating.

    • My thoughts exactly. I pray for both families while hating the glamorisation of guilty by opinion & media vote, when real people’s lives are involved – who throws the first stone?

    • Dorothy-Anne Howitson

      When he won medals, we cheered.
      Now we stand alongside him and the families and pray

    • Dear Michael, thank you! As is mentioned below, this is truly the desire of Father’s heart.

  2. An excellent response / perspective on a tragic tragic event. Well done Michael. The trial is so disturbing yet it does reflect a part of society. May we get the right perspective on it and be redemptive and positive.

  3. Gordon Calmeyer

    Thank you Michael for a very real and necessary insight into a tragic event ,we do pray that somehow good will come out if this and maybe young people will begin to realise that guns are not toys and that in the hands of people with tempers they kill, you don’t play with them in public places or cars

  4. Gordon Calmeyer

    Thank you Michael for a very real and necessary insight into a tragic event ,we do pray that somehow good will come out if this and maybe young people will begin to realise that guns are not toys and that in the hands of people with tempers they kill, and you don’t play with them in public places or cars

  5. And they haven’t even touched on the fact yet that Oscar spends hours looking at porn – contributing to more and more breakups in marriages etc etc. We need to pray for newly wed young couples to keep Christ as the Head of their home!

  6. I agree 100% with you Michael. People will sit in front of their television sets the entire day and judge anorher human beings thoughts, but one day we will stand in front of God and have our thoughts judged. With the rod that we measure we will also be measured.

  7. Allan Verreynne

    Thanks Michael, for helping us through the minefield of conflicting and confusing thoughts regarding this tragic event!

  8. Amen!!!!

  9. Thanks Michael for reminding us to guard our thought life by protecting and restricting what goes through our ‘eye and ear gates’. God says: ‘as a man or woman thinks so they become’ we need to ‘think on those things that are good and of a good report’ . We really need to think at a higher level in order to overcome the world’s onslaught of garbage distribution that aims to pollute our minds, and ultimately our behavior. Well done Michael for reminding us to focus on God’s Word and on prayer for the families.

  10. EXCELLENT analysis and exhortation !! Thank you Michael for setting us back on course as His followers !!

  11. Assie Van der Westhuizen

    Very well said, am looking forward to more contributions from you, and may you continue to draw from the Well of Wisdom that is in Christ!

  12. Thank you so much for continuing to offer so many the gift of your love, intellect and wisdom.

  13. Eben Mac Donald


  14. Thank you Michael! A very serious thing has been turned into ‘reality’ TV which in my opinion is disgraceful!

  15. So true.

  16. Worth thinking about… Val

  17. Thank you Michael for a truly godly and balanced perspective.

  18. Stephen Gilder

    I agree that our Thoughts should be towards God and good things. We all have Thoughts which are not good and there would be many more court cases if these Thoughts were carried out.
    There are consequences to actions which follow Thoughts….
    We will never know what Oscar was Thinking but Reeva is dead.
    We can pray that justice is done in this case. We must also pray that other peoples’ bad Thoughts do not lead them to similar results.

  19. Claude Cunningham

    While endorsing the sentiments expressed by column and responses, I hope we will not miss the point that here is a strong example, widely exposed and necessary, of sin leading to violence, misery and lessons in behavior. Oscar and Reeva were not married, celebrity status was the blinding excuse, and this disturbed man was being claimed as an example of Christianity. We’re not allowed to “preach” – and yet the preaching is so needed. Morality is needful, purity is blessed, to deny it is sin.

  20. Excellent. Amen!!!!!!

  21. Pingback: A word from Mike Skev & Michael Cassidy on the Oscar trial | Christian Life Camps Bay

  22. I am totally ad idem with you Michael, empathy and love are the prime ingredients of what we should be displaying in all our actions words and thoughts for both families and friends of the Steenkamp and Pistorius families: Yeshua should be the victor for all in the trial which unfortunately has become a “reality soapie” if there be such a ge’nre of media!Your words are inspiring for many!

  23. This is all so sad, my heart’s filled with compassion for Oscar when I see him facing the painful tragedy his life was, and has become. Also for his family. For Reeva’s family and their shocking loss, and the grace they’re showing Oscar and the world. I pray for the Lord’s justice, mercy and grace for all involved. It’s so easy to have our own opinions and judgments, but we certainly do need to let Christ’s mind be our own.

  24. TOTT – Philippians 4:6 – A comment

    DEAR Michael, bless you for sharing your perspective on Our Thoughts as hinged on The Oscar trial (by media). I have just returned from a research trip in China focusing on the 20 years my Father, Frederick Cope, spent there – part of my research on his life that I am writing as
    a biography – ONE MAN THREE LIVES – The man who would never give up.

    Yes, even in China, along side of the Malaysian plane tragedy, the Oscar trial vied for the top news slot! My heart and prayers go out to all involved. As I have been reading Philip Yancey’s THE QUESTION THAT NEVER GOES AWAY – my hope is enlarged that out of this suffering many, not least Oscar himself, will see and respond to the grace of our Lord Jesus. Forgiveness is limitless.

    And now to TOTT – Think On These Things.
    This is what my father encouraged us to do as a family whenever difficulties / tragedies crossed our path – as I far back as I can remember. Negative thought cannot co-habit in our mind with positive thoughts of thankfulness. He also often quoted (out of his experience of 9 Month solitary (cruel) confinement by the Japanese):
    Daddy was a Stars man. That is how he survived.
    He had learnt a good deal on controlling his thinking.

    Again I say, bless you Michael for your focus on TOTT

  25. Dear Michael. So true! This Father’s heart.

  26. Pingback: A word from Mike Skev, and Michael Cassidy on the Oscar trial | Christian Life Camps Bay