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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mandela's Legacy

On Mandela’s passing, I’m hearing words like “messiah,” “saint,” “example,” “moral model” and even “like a god.” These terms aren’t really surprising, as people tend to deify someone who has recently died.

Nelson Mandela did much for his country—after he got out of prison. He understood that there is much power in humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Mandela reached out to his oppressors in strength and kindness. He had suffered. He understood the injustices. He also heard the cries of his people. But he reached out, verbally forgave, and offered to cooperate in forming a new South Africa.

Because of that, he was a great man, and he deserves our respect.

Those principles are biblical:
  • Jesus said, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).
  • For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:37). 

Mandela understood that every human being is equal in the sight of God. Everyone should have the same rights and be treated equally. This, too, is a biblical principle:
  • Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
  • For there is no respect of persons with God (Romans 2:11).
  • And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him (Ephesians 6:9).
  • But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Mandela had some things going for him. He was 6’3” tall, with a powerful voice, a good education, impeccable manners, and the ability to connect with anyone. He looked for the “less important” people and gave them personal attention. He was also a politician’s politician—able to rally people around him and include them in his cause.

And, he had a list of mistakes and failures, including two of his three marriages and the original call to an armed guerilla resistance, which had bombed and killed people. I believe he changed during those years in prison and came out the better for it. 

I hope he was a Christian—a true believer in the Lord Jesus as his Savior.

His mother had him baptized as a Methodist when he was seven years old. I’ve not found anything since that indicated any particular spirituality on his part. He seems to have been religiously inclusive but not religious himself.

The Bible talks about those who have earthly success and lack the most important thing, faith in Jesus.
  • Jesus told a parable about a man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones: And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:19-21).
  • For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

Mandela’s legacy is huge. Here are a few practical lessons we can take away from his life:
  • Forgive and reconcile with our enemies. Try to reach a middle ground and make peace.
  • Leave vengeance to God. It’s not for us to do.
  • Treat everyone the same.
  • Look for those who are less fortunate, and encourage them.
  • Be polite, courteous, and speak kindly.
  • Use your leadership and influence to help others.

But, above all, make sure you know the Lord. He wants to save everyone.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

photo credit: <a ref="">GlobovisiĆ³n</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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