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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Lessons From The Life Of Nelson Mandela

Português: Brasília - O presidente da África d...
Português: Brasília - O presidente da África do Sul, Nelson Mandela, é recebido na capital federal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During the extensive media coverage of the passing of Nelson Mandela, I listened anxiously for some mention of his faith, but I heard none. However, as more facts about his extraordinary life came to light, many of which I'd read years ago in his book Long Walk To Freedom, the more I thought that his actions embodied many elements of the Christian faith.

To my mind, the most astonishing and outstanding fact about the South African leader is not that he became the country's first black president, but that he was able to forgive those who had imprisoned him and invite them to share the stage with him at his inauguration. That, I think is the essence of  Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,(Mathew 5: 44). 

In Long Walk To Freedom, Mandela wrote: "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

 Responding to conservatives who dismiss Mandela as a communist, Newt Gingrich said, "Actually Mandela was raised in a Methodist school, was a devout Christian, turned to communism in desperation only after South Africa was taken over by an extraordinarily racist government determined to eliminate all rights for blacks."

Mandela was a man of reconciliation. He was not interested in simply being released from prison and living a free life, but he knew that unless South Africa's warring factions were united, the country would never experience peace. Together with de Klerk, leader of the National party and former implementer of apartheid, Mandela was able to bring those opposing forces together in a peaceful negotiation.

But he didn't stop there. In another amazing attempt at healing the country from the brutal effects of apartheid, Mandela encouraged black South Africans to support the Springboks, a white rugby team. Rugby had hitherto been a white man's sport. And when Mandela, wearing the Afrikaner captain's number 6 jersey, presented the cup to the victorious captain, Francois Pienaar, cheers of "Nelson! Nelson!" resounded from the largely white crowd.

That was how Nelson Mandela overcame his enemies - with love. The way Jesus taught. So, mourn his passing, we must, celebrate his life, we must, but most of all, let us, as Christians, emulate the man's love and readiness to forgive his fellowmen.

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