There’s no getting away from the fact that a great man has just died. There’s no question that what he accomplished politically has been remarkable. In terms of world history Mandela will go down as one of the great Statesmen. Quite Gandhi like in his – latter – non-violent stance against apartheid. World leaders sought an audience with him as if something of his popularity would ‘rub-off’ on them. As if merely associating with Mandela would somehow make them popular as well. Such was the charisma of Nelson Mandela.
And yet, given his political achievements, in the final analysis it’s the only question worth asking - Where will Nelson Mandela spend Eternity? The short answer of course is that I do not know. But cutting to the chase; if Mandela had no faith in The Lord Jesus Christ then he will be lost and will spend all eternity in hell. It’s not going to play well in the Liberal heartlands but the frightening lesson – and the lesson of the Bible – is that no matter what we do it will not make us right with a Holy God. Even Archbishop Cranmer on his blog writes as if Mandela were a Christian without a shred of evidence. In the blog post by his grace Mandela talked about God being the Father of all – not true. Talked about worshiping as well, but politicians are skilled at using words that impress but (I’m talking Christianity here) actually means nothing. They are vacuous empty words. There is only ONE way to God. There is only ONE Saviour. You will never hear a politician say these things but they will use the language of religion. It’s all smoke and mirrors. I don’t want to take anything away from what Mandela achieved politically but it had nothing to do with the Christian faith or with Jesus.
I’ve done a quick scan of the online press and there’s not a lot of negative comment about him. There are a few pretty raw comments about him though. His approval of violence prior to his incarceration at Robben Island is mentioned but from then on it’s all positive. On Radio 4 this morning a Bishop (didn’t catch the name) said Nelson Mandela was the ‘embodiment of love’. I understand hyperbole but that is just not true. Only one person could be described that way and it’s Jesus Christ not Mandala. A Churchman should have known better but given these degenerative days where ‘truth has fallen in the streets’ it’s common to hear such ridiculous statements. If it were possible Mandela would be deified and this tells us more about our current political leaders than Nelson Mandela!
Simply put, the Gospel isn’t about rewarding people for their accomplishments, whatever those accomplishments are, or for being nice! The Gospel is Good News for sinners. Nelson Mandela in the eyes of the world (by and large) is a Saint. The world does not have the foggiest idea of what a Saint is. The Bible use of the word is simply a believer in Jesus, a sinner that has placed their trust in what Jesus accomplished on the Cross not what they have accomplished.
The problem the political world has created as it drools over the Mandela legacy is the problem of how righteousness is defined. But it has ever been so. The world defines holiness, righteousness, goodness, forgiveness & love on its own terms, not at all by the law God and the person of Jesus Christ. Associating with Nelson Mandela will not make a person good. Talking warmly about Nelson Mandela will not make a person good. Only faith in Jesus will make a person right or acceptable in the sight of God. But it’s not what the world wants to hear – even at Christmas!
The really scary thing is how good a person can be – or seem to be – and yet not be a Christian. The Church ought to be saying this over & over again. The death of Nelson Mandela as sad as it is for his family and followers is a warning to those that seek a righteousness of their own and not the righteousness that God provides in Christ. It is futile to put any eternal hope in man, any man. Our hope must be in Christ alone.
And you, dear reader. Nelson Mandela will not rescue you from the wrath to come, he cannot save you, he cannot forgive your sins. Only Jesus Christ can rescue you from the wrath to come, only Jesus Christ can save you, only Jesus Christ can forgive your sins. Only Jesus paid the price on the Cross to rescue sinners. Call upon Jesus for Salvation.
- Nelson Mandela brilliantly embodied the ideals of reconciliation and forgiveness (catholicherald.co.uk)
- Nelson Mandela-Changed the World! Can you? (oneworld01.com)
- Nelson Mandala’s words live on (georgedowdell.org)