Sunday was Nelson Mandela’s ninety-second birthday. Even a cursory reading of his biography amazes and astounds. Imagine being imprisoned for 27 years, then upon being released finding it within yourself to forgive the people who held you prisoner.
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Mandela, experiencing adversity and persecution for his whole life, somehow found it within himself to show love and respect to people who otherwise might be his enemies. The movie Invictus explores one way he did that, and convinced so many others to do so, as well.
“Love your enemies.” It is surely one of the most difficult things Christians are supposed to do, isn’t it? We would much rather love the ones who love us in return. And of course, it’s not that Jesus doesn’t want us to do that, but rather that loving people who love you is kind of a no-brainer, anyway. As he puts it (with a bit of a wry grin, I imagine), “Even tax collectors do THAT!”
To truly be doing what Jesus wants us to do, we have to love “enemies,” a very strong word indeed. It means “hated” or “odious” or “hateful.” One who is “hostile” and “opposing another.” Not just annoying or grumpy or bitter people (although to be sure, we are supposed to love them too!), but people who are openly hateful. Whoa!
It is staggering enough to think of such an idea personally, but then consider inspiring others to think the same way, as Nelson Mandela did, and we are left shaking our heads. But if we are to take the Great Commission seriously, to “make disciples” of all, that is exactly what we are supposed to be doing – not only loving others as Jesus loves, but inspiring others to do likewise.
Well, let’s get to work!