The Death Of A Giant
“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.”
3 John 11 (NKJV)
Why has the death of Nelson Mandela attracted so much attention? Our TV news programmes were extended and most daily papers had several pages devoted to his life and death.
In South Africa the evil system of Apartheid was adopted in 1948, and extended and institutionalized existing racial segregation. Despite terrorism at home and isolation abroad from the 1960s onwards, the white regime maintained the system, with only minor relaxation, until February 1991. Nelson Mandela lived under this system for most of his life, being discriminated against, treated with hostility, and regarded as a second class citizen. The system was designed to underline the superiority of the white race. I have no idea what Mr Mandela’s personal beliefs were and whether he believed in God. But I know that he reflected Christian values in the way he lived his life.
Earlier, as a freedom fighter against apartheid in South Africa he was regarded as a terrorist and eventually jailed for 27 years. For most people these years imprisoned would have created a sense of bitterness and deep hostility towards the government and people who imprisoned them. But in this remarkable man it created a deep sense of peace and love for all the people of his native South Africa, black or white, so that when he was released from prison he showed by the way he lived that he had no hatred or hostility in him. He preached peace and reconciliation to his nation from the moment he was released, throughout his eventual job as President of South Africa, and in the years of retirement that followed.
In the aftermath of Apartheid the nation could easily have exploded into a frenzy of killing between its black and white population, as happened at the independence of India—the separation of part of it to become Pakistan and the resultant orgy of killing that followed. It is not an exaggeration to say that one man, Nelson Mandela, was the catalyst who ensured that this did not happen.
It is truly wonderful, and stuns the world, to see a man living up to his God-given potential for love and forgiveness. That’s why his death has attracted such attention. By any standard he was a giant of his time.
South Africa still faces some problems but thanks to this giant of a man, its transition from the evil system of apartheid to the equality of all its races and people has been much more successful than anyone could have hoped at the time. Let us pray that his successors in the leadership of South Africa have absorbed the lessons and will strive to follow the amazing example of this man.
Father, not many men in positions of power embody the Christian values of love, peace and forgiveness that radiated from Nelson Mandela. May the nation of South Africa be blessed by his example following his death, as it was by his leadership during his life.
Study by Keith Hartrick
Grace Communion – Leeds
Garden Village Welfare Association Community Centre
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