Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nelson Mandela: Gaze-Raiser (Peter A. Black)

The following piece is a slightly  modified edition of a post I placed on Raise Your Gaze a couple of days ago. Raise Your Gaze

The world is abuzz with the news of Nelson Mandela’s death and awash with accolades of praise and admiration. The gaze of multiplied millions – from child to the aged – has been elevated in his honour.

This is well-deserved, of course, in view of his tremendous role at enormous personal cost in bringing to an end the apartheid system of oppressive government by the white minority in South Africa, and its replacement with a more equitable democracy.

He was the first foreign leader to be made an honorary citizen of Canada and the first foreigner to be named an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada.

Mandela graciously stood alongside the then South African President F.W. de Klerk when they were each awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1993, although de Klerk was in part responsible for Mandela’s incarceration.
In 1994 Mandela was elected President.
Gaze-Raising Image
Photo courtesy
I call this his 'signature' smile!
For me, an enduring visual image of him is of a tall, elderly statesmanlike figure who, while physically frail, presented himself serene and poised, his demeanor exhibiting an inner strength. He spoke with authority and conviction.
Despite his great age and the rigours of his 27 years in prison, involving hard labour that resulted in lung damage, his countenance was youthful and displayed his radiant signature smile.
He appeared rested and at peace within his person; his manner gracious.
As I compared photographs of his younger, pre-prison years, it seemed to me that Mandela appeared more serious then, and I fancied that he didn’t smile as much. Something had changed. Perhaps the greatest change was in himself – in his soul.
The radical freedom-fighter was still engaged in the battle, but he was different now. Was it a spiritual change? Perhaps. Had he found a freedom that sets men free in spirit despite his long physical confinement and circumstantial constriction? Possibly.
Mandela’s Message upon His Release after 27 years (February 11, 1990)
His message was one of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing; letting bygones be bygones.  In that spirit, he emulated the example of Jesus Christ in His prayer from the cross in the midst of His suffering the agonies of crucifixion: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
In 1994, as the first fully democratically elected South African President representing all the people, Mandela  said that it was now time to heal old wounds and build South Africa for all the people, regardless of race.
As messianic a figure as President Mandela was to his people, and as lauded as he was and is – and rightly so, he was an imperfect and faulted, although remarkable human being.
However, when all is said and done, he achieved – along with others who stood with him – great things and demonstrated a greatness that accords with biblical principles, especially during the latter decades of his life. These reflect to a marked degree the principles of the Kingdom of Heaven and the blessedness our Lord spoke of in the beatitudes. For example:
From Matthew 5:3-9 (NIV2011. Inserted applications for these musings are mine.)
Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn [over loss, sin, or injustice] for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek [gentle, patient], for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [justice; seeking and doing what’s right and just], for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart [honest, true; pure in motive], for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
You might like to consider whether other verses from the Beatitudes and The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5 thro’ 7) should also be considered as in some measure evidenced in Mr. Mandela’s life.
His legacy will live on. It will be interesting to see it being played out in myriad small ways in individual lives as well as in the larger sphere of international politics.
Has Nelson Mandela been instrumental in elevating your focus – your gaze – in ways that I haven’t touched on here? 
Perhaps you disagree with me. And that’s fine, too. Be free to comment.
Personally, Nelson Mandela raised more than my eyebrows; my heart and mind and hopes were also raised.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). (Finalist -- Word Alive Press ISBN 1897373-21-X)
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario. Peter’s current book project comprises a collection of 52 column articles.




Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Peter - I like this thoughtful take on Mandela. He was flawed but he did a lot to bring peace between two groups that had animosity toward each other. Encouraging.

Peter Black said...

Thanks for your reflections, Rose.

It's of God's mercy and grace that He chooses to use us also in blessing others in His name, despite our weaknesses and failings, isn't it?

I'm heading on to your post now, and look forward to meeting you there and at Blogger Comments again. ~~+~~

Popular Posts