“The Gift”

 

                Have you ever felt wronged by somebody else, and entertained, even if only briefly, the fantasy of doing something to them out of retribution?

                “'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, 'says the Lord. “ (Romans 12:19)

                Yes, we feel like protesting, but when?  And will I get to see it?

                “No, if you enemy is hungry, give him something to eat, or thirsty, give him something to drink, for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” (Romans 12:20)

                Yes, but what if what you had in mind was more like the burning coals?

                On the other hand, have you ever done somebody wrong, and thought that was in the past and that person is out of your life, and all of a sudden they re-appear?  Do you act like nothing happened?  Do you play dumb and pretend you don’t remember?  Do you attempt to make amends, or would that depend on the willingness of the other person to accept your apology?  Is apology itself a sign of weakness, if not irrelevance, after a long passage of time?

                Simon (Jason Bateman) looks for all the world like the successful, up-and-coming young businessman:  beautiful loving wife, on the verge of the big promotion.  He’s trim and handsome and charming, plans to start a family, has just bought a beautiful house on the hill, overlooking the bright lights of the big city.

                Ah, but in the darkness looms a past starting to catch up with him.  Gordo (Joel Edgerton) was the kid in school who got bullied, just because he was a nerd.  Simon, the Class President and obviously the Most Popular, made Gordo’s life hell….just because he could.  He spread false rumors about Gordo’s sexuality, and about getting caught in a car with a grown man.  Gordo was so devastated that he dropped out of school, and never really recovered, emotionally, from all the teenage trauma.

                But along the way Gordo has developed some creepy social skills, like leaving gifts for people, so they will somehow feel beholden to him, or at the very least, uncomfortably grateful.  Gordo manages to insinuate himself to Simon’s wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall) by bringing yet another gift, getting invited in for tea, and implying that he and Simon used to be friends. 

                Simon just can’t seem to convince Robyn to be rid of Gordo, because he really doesn’t want to tell her what despicable things he did.  What Robyn slowly finds out is that Simon is quite capable, still, of deceit and cruelty and bullying; it’s just that she hasn’t seen that side of him….yet.

                Director Joel Edgerton, who also wrote the script, presents us with an edgy drama that occasionally makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end.  True, he sometimes gives in to jump-out-at-the-viewer moments, but there’s a genuine human drama going on here, cloaked in surprisingly religious themes:  sin, guilt, retribution, atonement repentance, forgiveness, grace, mercy. 

                “Peter said to Jesus, “How many times should I forgive…..and Jesus answered, ‘As many as seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:22)

 

Questions For Discussion:

1)                  Have you ever received a gift that you wished you hadn't?

2)                  Have you ever given a gift that you wished you hadn't?

3)                  When have you been unpleasantly surprised by getting to know someone better?  In retrospect, were there clues that you chose to ignore?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas