A selection of Mandela’s nuggets of wisdom

In conversation with a Christian Afrikaner across a lunch table at an international, cross-denominational conference in the 1960s, I asked him what good things God was doing in South Africa. I was especially delighted to learn of spiritual renewal in the staid Dutch Reformed Church. But suddenly I felt physically stunned and mentally shocked when he remarked that ‘the blacks have no souls’. When I managed to splutter my response: ‘Did I just hear you say that?’ he confirmed that this was a current belief among the fellow-members of his church.

By contrast, through my ‘free church’ upbringing and hungry devouring in my teens of the entire series of Jungle Doctor stories by the Australian evangelical Dr Paul White, I had developed a real affection for them as precious people loved by God  – even hoping that I might train for a ministry among them similar to White’s.

Not long after that encounter I became the copy editor of Restoration, a bimonthly magazine devoted to the message that the gospel offers not only a restoring of individual spiritual well-being but also of corporate spiritual relationships – a restoring to fresh beginnings like those enjoyed by Jesus’ first disciples in the Gospels and Acts. Its editor, the late Bryn Jones, soon published a boxed-around protest against apartheid that, it said, would – and did – appear in every subsequent issue until ‘this evil’ was rooted out.

‘Madiba’ Mandela, despite his Methodist upbringing, did not have a squeaky clean youth. But during his long internment on Robben Island he indulged in some healthy soul-searching and, as a result, eventually left that tomb as a resurrection man inspired with practical, biblical wisdom that is vital to all disciples of Jesus.

Here are a few of his gems.

[] Our struggle was against white supremacy, not against white people. (See Ephesians 6:11-12.) 

[] As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. (See Luke 17:3-4.)

[] Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies. (See Hebrews 12:15.)

[] One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others. (See Luke 6:41-42.)

[] Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. (See Psalm 37:23-24; Proverbs 24:16.)

[] The purpose of freedom is to create it for others. (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

[] I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. (See Proverbs 28:1.)

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