Hello SBC and friends
On Friday morning, all South Africans awoke to the not-so-unexpected-news of the death of the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. In this one man the political hopes and ideals of millions of South Africans have converged and found an articulate expression. Not only nationally, but also globally, Madiba has been the icon for the ideals of much of the Western World: political freedom and personal equality for every citizen, regardless of gender, race and religion. Thus the flood of a public and deeply felt sympathy that we witnessed today is truly fitting for all that he stood for in this painful yet beloved country of ours. Only the most hardened can not offer up a heartfelt prayer to God for giving the country such a leader at her most important hour. I hope you have done that already.
As Christians we know that the real problem remains and that Mandela has not been able to accomplish the ideals for which he stood for. New laws can be in place (as needed as they are) and a new South African anthem and flag can carry high in the sky our deepest longings for this country yet without the root problem being eradicated. Let me remind you again that what we will always need is not a new South Africa but new South Africans. Neither Mandela nor any man can do. We are all aware that the great gains ushered in in the 1990's have also been accompanied by newer problems. Sexual and violent crime now characterizes our society, and though racial segregation is outlawed infant-murder (abortion) is legislated in the new South Africa . So in one very real sense the sins of the country are as ever present with us though their appearance has changed.
This reality that we daily face reminds us that Mandela is not Messiah. We are led to ask then: who then will truly bring lasting and effectual moral change to South Africans? Well, there one: "See My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One, in whom my soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon him; and he will bring forth justice to the nations" (Isaiah 42:1). And who is this one the prophet Isaiah spoke of? On a mountain in Palestine over 2000 years ago, a divine voice from heaven spoke and said of Jesus of Nazareth: "This is My Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Matthew 17:5).
So as we pause today and reflect upon the life of Mandela, let us give thanks to God for giving us such a leader to inaugurate the new era in the history of South Africa. But let us also remember the limited and small place that he plays in the things that ultimately matter. Let us remember that Mandela was not able to give us what we need most. Only in the Christ of God will all our deepest and dearest longings find rest and fulfillment. We 'honour the king' as the apostle Peter told us to do in his first letter, but we also declare with him to the Crucified One who was rejected of men: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God".