In memoriam Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela. The world – or most of the world – mourns his passing. Humanity – or most of humanity – bows its head in respect. This piece is not to shed any great new light on his life – there’s little I can say about him that a thousand other people haven’t already said. This is just to pay my respects and be counted with those who celebrate his life and mourn the world’s loss.

Nelson Mandela was, it seems, that rare thing – not just a great man, but more importantly also a deeply good man. One who had learnt goodness the hard way, through suffering and imprisonment and the long hard road of forgiving his enemies and oppressors.

If Nelson Mandela had been a Roman Catholic, no doubt there would be moves to make him a saint. To qualify for canonization, the candidate needs to have a bona fide miracle associated with them, often a miracle of healing. I would say that there can be few greater miracles or few greater healings than the forgiveness of old enemies, the healing of rifts between former oppressor and former oppressed, the miracles of reconciliation and of justice mixed not with bitterness but with mercy.

Of course, Mandela was by no means perfect. Doubtless there were things in his past and even his present that were not fully ‘saint-like’. But, bar Christ, no human is ever without flaw or shadow. The great liberator Moses murdered a man; Israel’s greatest king, David, committed adultery and murder; Martin Luther King had an affair. Yet these were all truly great men and, despite their major flaws, for the most part deeply good. Mandela stands shoulder to shoulder with such giants of history as these, such bringers of liberation and peace.

Countless stories are emerging and will continue to emerge of the ways Nelson Mandela touched people’s lives, in small and great ways. Apparently he learnt the language of his oppressors so that he could talk to his prison guards, asking them about their children and families. And apparently when he went to meet one of the original architects of Apartheid, a bitter and racist old woman, he completely won her over. Such a man I would follow.

Paying his tribute to Mandela, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that one of the world’s great lights had gone out. For once, I largely agree with him. But I would say further that such lights never truly go out. Real love never dies, and true light shines on in the darkness for all time.

We should also spare a thought to that other great and good man who stood and worked alongside Mandela in rebuilding a unified South Africa – Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu’s humanity and Christianity shine through in all he says and does, and when he dies I hope that he too will be honoured alongside Mandela.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
This entry was posted in Politics and faith, World events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to In memoriam Nelson Mandela

  1. lotharson says:

    Hello lovely and adorable Harvey.

    Thank you for these touching words. Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly a giant, one of the men who was very close to Christ.

    Unfortunately in France we have terrible ethnic conflicts, and due to political correctness anti-white racism is comletely taboo in the mainstream medias.

    The Lord calls us to be peacemakers, and I just reformulated a parable of Jesus and applied it to the American culture war.
    I would be very glad if you were to give me your opinion on that piece.

    Otherwise I haven’t yet completely lose hope that one day, you will create a Skype account out of the dust 🙂

    Best wishes from Lancashire.


  2. Jenny Rayner says:

    Did either of you listen to the sermon preached at Mandela’s funeral this morning? I only heard some of it, as I had to pick people up for church, but I would have loved to linger until the end, and maybe I’ll see if I can find it on YouTube, or at least a transcript of it somewhere. It was a totally radical look at the parable Jesus told in Matt 25: 14-30, usually regarded as “the parable of the talents” but here it was interpreted rather as “the parable of the oppressed slaves who were treated unfairly by their (presumably white) master”. It made me realise how subjective our interpretation of Scripture can be, as we are all so influenced by the culture in which we live. I have often wondered about the parable that preceded it. Why did the “wise” maidens not share their oil (usually regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit) with those were without – literally, as it turned out? Could these two parables actually be interpreted in radically different ways from the usual conventions, because if they can, they would actually be far more in keeping with the rest of the chapter, when it is those who show compassion who are commended, not those who keep their resources to themselves, or work their socks off to prosper those who are already affluent and oppress their servants. Is the preacher (who was a Methodist, I believe) right in suggesting that the peaceful protest of the man who “buried his talent” was the one to be commended in this parable?


    • Hi Jenny, I didn’t hear the sermon unfortunately but I might try and catch it online.

      Our reading yesterday was the wise and foolish bridesmaids/virgins, which probably means it’s in the Anglican lectionary for this Sunday! I was also struck by how, well, non-left-wing it comes across, and it made me a little uncomfortable. I like the alternative take, but I’m not sure I could go as far as that even though it would fit better it into my view of the world!

      Seems to me it’s primarily a parable about being prepared – one for every good Boy Scout. 😉 I don’t think Jesus was saying we shouldn’t share or be compassionate in cases of true need. It’s more just that those who have prepared themselves don’t always have to bail out those who’ve had as much chance to get ready but didn’t bother.

      On the parable of the talents, I have heard that alternative take before, and again I like it but I couldn’t see it as the primary meaning of the story. I think the obvious reading is still that we’re called to make the best use of whatever we’ve been blessed with. But yes, I think it’s possible to have the alternative economic reading which undercuts or queries the main reading.


  3. Jenny Rayner says:

    Thanks Harvey – I guess it’s all part of dealing with the particular client group I work with. Should we delve into the background of those “foolish” maidens, and see if they were unprepared because they were disadvantaged in some way? It’s not a level playing field you know!
    But with the particular set of advantages that I’ve been blessed with, I do endeavour to make the best use I can of them, and live in hope of hearing that “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


    • I agree completely, it’s not a level playing field, and I’m sure Jesus does take into account everyone’s personal advantages and disadvantages. I just don’t think that’s the original main point of this particular story, but I suppose we can read it that way – it’s a parable so doesn’t necessarily have to have a single fixed meaning!


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