Christian Living

Beltway Buzz

Nelson Mandela: A Monumental Man

As the condolences pour in, one thing is clear about Nelson Mandela: his life and legacy will have a lasting impact well beyond his 95 years on earth.

Revered worldwide as a statesman, a humanitarian, and a monumental figure who embodied forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity, Mandela helped to break his country's long-held institution of racial segregation known as apartheid.

Yet as a towering example of grace, Mandela was equally a picture of humility. He knew he was far from perfect, something even he admitted, once saying, "I'm not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."

And try he did. After nearly 30 years in prison, many spent in an 8 x 7 foot cell, the father of what would become a democratic South Africa emerged free of bitterness and hatred for his jailers, qualities that easily could have consumed him.

Recounting a conversation with him, former President Bill Clinton once asked Mandela, "Tell me truth: when you were walking down the road that last time, didn't you hate them?"

"He said, 'Briefly," Clinton recalled. "'I felt hatred and fear, but I said to myself, if you hate them when you get in that car, you will still be their prisoner. I wanted to be free and so I let it go.'"

It's hard to think of a better illustration of forgiveness.

And so Mandela, who fought a long, hard fight, set the tone for a divided country looking to heal and unite.

He also knew the importance of the role of faith. According to a statement by Matt Crouch, son of the late Paul Crouch founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Mandela met with the network's founder shortly after he became president.

"In the late 1980s South Africa was one of the first nations to invite my father ... to establish Christian television stations outside the United States. When Mr. Mandela became President in 1994, he graciously met with my father, confirming the importance of the Christian faith in his country and assuring him that TBN would continue to be free to broadcast the gospel there ... We join the rest of the world in honoring the memory of this great man. May his legacy of reconciliation, love, and forgiveness continue to guide and inspire us all."

Scripture tells us not to be overcome with evil but to be overcome with good. It's a lesson Mandela learned, took to heart, and implored others to live by.