Cry, The Beloved Country is set in South Africa in the late 1940s, before apartheid, but certainly in a time of profound racial strife.
The book touches on several heavy themes—racism, theology, politics, the breakdown of the native village, crime, environmental concerns, and others—but I just want to focus on one quote that I really liked.
While in Johannesburg, Kumalo becomes close friends with Umfundisi Msimangu, a younger priest who helps him in his search and comforts him as he endures one heartbreaking discovery after another. Time and time again, Msimangu goes out of his way to help Kumalo in any way that he can.
At one particular moment in the book, the old priest is so moved by the overwhelming love and kindness that the younger priest shows him that he begins to pay him a compliment. Kumalo tells Msimangu that he has never known anyone like him, but before he can go on, the young priest interrupts his compliment and rebukes him, saying, “I am a weak and sinful man, but God put His hands on me, that is all.”
Instead, we should have the attitude of Msimangu. He wasn’t willing to take credit for his good deeds, but instead said that it was God’s influence in his life that made those deeds possible. That’s how we should be. We should strive to show the world that any difference or “betterness” on our part isn’t because of us—it’s because Jesus changes our hearts and allows us to be different.
“I am a weak and sinful man, but God put His hands on me, that is all.”