Christmas is almost here and I confess I still have some shopping left to do. However, in the midst of the Christmas frenzy, my mind has been focused on the passing of Nelson Mandela. One never knows the impact of our legacy until we see the fruit it has produced. In Mandela's case, he was a very fruitful man! To fill a stadium with people who love you and see leaders from all over the world pay their respects certainly makes a statement about the life he lived and the legacy he left behind. As I thought about Nelson Mandela, I could see reflections of some Biblical heroes of the faith. I thought about Abraham as the "father of many" which is the meaning of his name. Prior to this name change, the patriarch was known as Abram meaning "exalted father." In the Ancient Near East, one's name carried a lot of significance. Obviously Abram earned the respect of many people. However when God changed his name to Abraham, he became marked in a special way as God's servant. (Genesis 17) When God sets someone apart to His service powerful things take place in the individual's life and the lives in which he/she comes into contact. Similarly, Nelson Mandela had a "name change." "Madiba" is the name of Mandela's clan. The name of one's clan was considered more important than a surname. It refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. "Madiba" was the Thembu chief who ruled in Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone's clan name. Like Abram, Mandela or "Madiba" commanded great respect given his connection to a tribal chief. However, like Abraham, Mandela became known by the people as "Tata." "Tata" is a term of endearment meaning "father." Many people regardless of age used the term to describe Mandela who became a father figure to the nation. Both Abraham and Tata Madiba became "fathers of many." I also see similarities between Nelson Mandela and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was a hater of Christians and spent many years persecuting, arresting, and killing them. (Acts 8:1-3) As a young idealistic man filled with anger and impatience towards the Afrikaners and the system of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela began to use violence against his enemies. However both men had a heart change and were transformed by the power of love and forgiveness. Paul's transformation came on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19) and Madela's after spending 27 years in prison. There is only One who has the power to change bitterness and hatred into love and healing. His name is Jesus. As a result of the heart change these men experienced, many people's lives were also dramatically changed. During Paul's ministry, Jews and Gentiles alike came to know the Savior. In Nelson Mandela's case, the system of Apartheid was dismantled and black Africans and white Afrikaners began to share power equally, living and working together in peace. This is the power of what Christ can do if we are willing to open our hearts to receive Him. When we believe in Christ and accept the gracious gift that the Father has given us, we are set apart to serve God in the world. As His servants, God transforms us from the inside out. He equips us with gifts by the power of His Holy Spirit to touch lives with His love and bring honor and glory to His Name. Additionally, we will be given "new names" as revealed in the book of Revelation. John in speaking to the seven churches says this to the church in Pergamum, " He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2:17) And to the church in Philadelphia he writes, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name." (Revelation 3:11-12) You and I may never have "descendants as numerous as the stars" or people filling a stadium to celebrate our lives but as we share the gospel, we give an even greater gift that will result in eternal life for all that receive it. Well done Tata Madiba, rest in peace!
Blessings In Christ,