Opinion: No pain-free guarantee

Faith in Waipa

By Murray Smith, Senior League, Bridges Church

Living in pleasant provincial New Zealand offers no ‘get out of jail free card’ in as much as encountering hard things in life goes. Sadly, to some degree rejection, scorn, cruelty, unkind actions, criticism, injustice, being misunderstood is no respecter of persons. And tragically for too many, physical abuse goes with their suffering of emotional pain.

Our reactions or responses in facing such damaging occurrences determine much about who we become as human beings. Many become vindictive, defensive, aggressive, belligerent or socially distant- treating others and speaking about others out of deep inner wounds they carry.

Nelson Mandela’s learnings are challenging in this regard.

Just after becoming President, he asked some of his bodyguard members to go for a walk in town. Later they went out for lunch. Each of Mandela’s team ordered what they wanted. He noticed a man sitting alone at a nearby table also waiting to be served. When he had been served, Mandela told one of his soldiers to ask the man to join them. The man stood up bringing his plate and sat next to Mandela.

While eating, the hands of this ‘guest’ were constantly shaking and he didn’t lift his head from the food. When they had finished, without even looking at him, this man waved at Mandela who shook his hand… at which point the man walked away!

A conversation ensued from one of Mandela’s soldiers asking a question – I quote…“Madiba, that man must be very sick as his hands wouldn’t stop shaking while he was eating”.

“Not at all! The reason for his tremor is another,” Mandela replied.

They looked at him puzzled and he continued, “that man was the guardian of the jail I was locked up in. Often, after the torture I was subjected to, I screamed and cried for water and he came to humiliate me, he laughed at me and instead of giving me water he urinated on my head.

“He wasn’t sick, he was scared and shook maybe fearing that I, now that I’m president of South Africa, would send him to jail and do the same thing he did with me, torturing and humiliating him. But that’s not me, that behaviour is not part of my character nor my ethics. Minds that seek revenge destroy states, while those that seek reconciliation build nations.” (abridged Echeverría Martínez “Chicali Wall”)

Mandela understood something of forgiveness and love.

The Bible has much to say about such love referring to it as the ‘royal law’. It is the law of the King…in other words “love” is Jesus’ way. He suffered each of the indignities I mentioned in the opening paragraph beyond anything a human being ever suffered. Yet His words and actions still resonated love, forgiveness and acceptance.

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

“Bless those who curse you – pray for those who mistreat you.”

Broken on the cross He died, crying out forgiveness to each and every perpetrator. Forgiveness and mercy we must receive – and extend, to be free.

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