I heard the news last evening that Nelson Mandela had passed. It was a day I had been expecting for some time now. I had heard on a few occasions he had been ill. The last time I had heard this news, maybe a month ago, I felt that his time may be coming to an end on this earth. I am not South African. I have never read a book on Mr. Mandela. I have not even watched the movie about his life starring Morgan Freeman. Even still, I feel the loss of this hero of humanity.
There are those who speak of liberty and the grand themes of emancipation and freedom. Nelson Mandela epitomized it. Mandela was the embodiment of these ideals.
Not only that, not only did he experience the hardships of apartheid and imprisonment; but, he rose beyond that to show the value and worth of the human spirit. He did not hold to bitterness or revenge. Instead, his was a message of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness. He chose to be Christlike and turn the other cheek. Many sites have stated that his Christian faith was the foundation of his views and life.
Mandela showed himself to be a true disciple of Christ. For not only did he find freedom for himself; something for which many would have been satisfied and would have shaken their fist at those who wronged them and cursed them beneath their breath til the day they died . . . not Mandela. He championed freedom, not only for himself, but for his country as well. He was an activist. He was a philanthropist. He was a humanitarian.
Mandela once said,
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Not only the life we lead, but when we are gone, the life we led. Mandela may have slipped through the veil of this transitory plane; but his indelible spirit and relentless, though humble pursuit of justice and reconciliation shall live on for ever.
Everywhere there is a form of apartheid. Anywhere there is discrimination based on race, may Mandela’s spirit be felt and his voice heard. Even more, may the spirit and love of Christ be felt and may he change those stubborn, rebellious, small hard hearts.
Let us not forget, that Christ often made the hero of his morals a Samaritan. This would have been revolutionary and highly controversial (understatement!) for his culture and context. I will not speak much of it here, though I have written another post about it here.
Mandela fits that spirit. He embraced it and lived it. Of all the lives we celebrate and mourn, whether athletes or celebrities or royalties, here is a man who deserves all the eulogies the world can declare.
A man who experienced the hell of prison, only to transcend it. A man who knew firsthand the ugliness and evil of racism, only to rise above it and with a steady, humble hand crush it. Like the fictional Jean Valjean, he overcame and impacted the life’s of countless others, because he chose love over hate, forgiveness over bitterness and reconciliation over selfishness.
And like Valjean, at the end of the stirring musical Les Miserables, it can be said of him:
Come with me, where chains will never bind you, all your grief at last, at last behind you, Lord in heaven look down on him in mercy . . . and remember the truth that once was spoken, to love another person is to see the face of God.
Here is a man who lived what he believed. He practiced what he preached. And if nothing else, sadly perhaps, this sets him apart from the mass of humanity.
God speed Mr. Mandela and welcome home.
****To hear from someone much closer to the life and impact of Nelson Mandela, read this post by a fellow-blogger: