Friday, December 6, 2013


Upon hearing last night of Nelson Mandela's passing, I wanted to reflect on his life and legacy. The easiest way for me to do that was to watch the movie Invictus, which centers on the South African rugby team's quest to win the world cup during Mandela's first term as president, thereby seeking reconciliation in the process.

The part of the film I have been reflecting on ever since is a scene the night before the World Cup Final. Matt Damon's character, the captain of the Springboks, is asked what he is thinking about, and he says something like, "Thinking about how you can spend thirty years in a cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put you there."

Mandela's life flows with forgiveness and grace. It's the kind of forgiveness that makes no sense in our world. Approached from  a "survival of the fittest" standpoint, this forgiveness makes no sense. Seen through the eyes of any modern philosophy, that forgiveness is still incomprehensible.

This forgiveness leads me to reflect on the cross, where Jesus Christ gave his life so that humanity could be reconciled to the Heavenly Father. And then he called his followers to forgive the way they have been forgiven:  "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." He sets the example for grace that can only be a reflection of the grace that has already flowed from his hands. 


Mandela spent nearly thirty years in prison for his political activism. In his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela says, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

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