Breaking The Chains of Hatred

During one of my journeys to South Africa I visited the Robben Island penal colony, where Nelson Mandela was held captive for almost twenty years. I have visited South Africa many times, including during the Apartheid and it had always been a goal of mine to see firsthand where President Mandela wrote his journals. Of course his cell is now empty and it stands as a symbol of hope for all those who continue to suffer unjustly. 
I too experienced the absurdities of Apartheid when I arrived Johannesburg one morning aboard a KLM flight, only to be told my visa had been cancelled and I was to return to Amsterdam on the next flight. Apparently, as best I can determine, I had been spotted on my previous trip, associating with and visiting the homes and churches of a number of black South Africans. 
They were absolutely correct. I had, and as I stated to the immigration police, I was ‘jolly proud of it.’ Their only response to my defiant admission was to restrict me to 'airside' whilst I waited to board the same aircraft from which I had just disembarked. But their actions in the eighties only strengthened my resolve to return and join the global swell of voices protesting against this oppression of humanity.

The struggle to rise above injustice and even love those who have treated us badly is a theme, which the Bible often explores. One of its greatest character studies is Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery, then imprisoned for 14 years on false charges made against him by his employer's wife.

Here's part of the narrative when after his release from prison and elevation to the second highest role in Egypt; Joseph explains to his family how he now understands the past.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. But Joseph said to them, "don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

On one occasion after Mandela's release and rise to prominence in South Africa, President Bill Clinton asked him how he felt about those prison warders who had brutalized his life or the politicians who ignored his case. "Was there ever a time," he asked, "when he had wanted revenge?"

Mandela replied "If I had held onto anger and bitterness during those dreadful days, I would have been twice in chains. Through my forgiveness they no longer had control of my spirit, even though my body was theirs."

By such remarkable determination, Mandela not only saved his own life but also built a platform for the peace and reconciliation process which is saving so many lives throughout Africa.

I've saved my old passport bearing my cancelled South African visa for years. It serves to remind me that the determination to do kindness shall always surpass evil. 

Heavenly Father, help us to love our enemies, to return evil with good and as far as is possible to live at peace with everyone. Prosper those who are working for peace and justice in the world. Amen


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