Tributes for Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday, use words like "humility," "grace," and "forgiveness." One accolade -- that he treated people as he would want to be treated -- made me think of the sermon by Pastor John Hayden that we are using as our Pastor's Handbook update this year.
As Pastor Hayden points out, the "Golden Rule" is a uniquely Christian idea. Many ancient cultures recognized that the evil a person does often comes back to plague him or her. Instead of promoting kindness, however, the effect of this thinking is to grant permission for "doing unto others what they have done to you."
This is how many thought Mandela would behave upon his release from prison and ascension to the presidency, but he resisted that impulse and called for reconciliation and forgiveness. It is told that he invited his former jailers to sit in the front row at his inauguration as a sign of peace-making.
I cannot say whether he was a Christian, but this "fruit" is telling. A few articles I read this morning, however, raise doubt:
South African bishops wrong to laud Mandela
South African missionary cautions against new film praising life of Nelson Mandela
Sadly, this almost universally heralded leader supported abortion on demand and other sinful practices. Did he do to the unborn what he wished done to him? As much good as he may have accomplished, his was not a completely golden life.
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