Mandela Day has come and gone and I am sure lot of good was generated by the initiative. I am a great admirer of Madiba and will always respect the personal sacrifice he made for the nation.
However, as a follower of Jesus I am also aware that Mandela Day is essentially a humanistic celebration that fails to acknowledge God’s role in SA’s peaceful transition to democracy.
The aptly named New Age newspaper (11 July) reported that ANC Chief Whip, Mathole Motshekga, addressed hundreds of Church leaders about the moral degeneration of society. According to the article, “The Church leaders undertook to preach a social gospel that calls upon individuals to emulate Nelson Mandela, who fought and lived by human values and principles”.
“The Church leaders were in agreement that the restoration of human values (not Biblical values) will go a long way in contributing to social cohesion and nation building.” People across the world are encouraged to do good deeds on Mandela Day to honour the legacy of the great man.
Because secular humanists deny the existence of God, they often elevate prominent personalities to God-like status in order to fulfill their innate need to worship. As a result, the iconic image of Nelson Mandela has been transformed into a near Christ like figure and worshiped across the world. It has become popular practice for global leaders and celebrities alike to make the pilgrimage to Mandela’s residence in Johannesburg to pay homage to the former political prisoner.
Nelson Mandela is often referred to as the “saviour” of South Africa and sometimes, “the greatest example of servant leadership.” As a result of the world’s fascination with Mandela’s moral stature, scandal ridden former US president, Bill Clinton spent considerable time in Madiba’s presence in the hope of sanctifying his tainted image. (A form of secular humanist redemption).
I remember being invited to dinner with then President Nelson Mandela in June 1999, as part of a delegation of religious leaders. The two hour dinner was an unforgettable experience as Madiba regaled us with anecdotes of his life on Robben Island and his experiences following his release.
I am forever grateful to Madiba for his decisive leadership when the nation needed it most and for choosing the noble path of forgiveness and reconciliation despite the hardships he suffered. However, despite his larger than life image and the adulation of hundreds of millions of global citizens, I am aware that Nelson Mandela – like all of us – is a sinful and imperfect man in need of a Saviour. I am therefore, appalled at the media’s portrayal of Madiba as a “messianic” figure.
There is only one Saviour of South Africa and the world – and His name is Jesus! The Scriptures declare, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Phil 2:9-11. The tragic reality is that the name of Jesus is regularly mocked in contemporary society, while the names of imperfect and sinful men are revered.
The liberal media and big business have secularised Christmas to the extent that the true purpose for the season is lost amidst a frenzy of festivities, drunken parties and marathon shopping sprees. Compare that with Mandela Day, in which people are encouraged to give sacrificially and serve their fellow man with acts of kindness. Is this the new season of peace and goodwill to all men?
As a Christian I understand why humanists need a human object of worship. But I am deeply concerned when Christians and even Churches are swept up by the media frenzy that propagates the deification of an imperfect man. I was informed some Churches actually cancelled Sunday services to participate in Mandela Week. What this means in reality, is that certain Churches temporarily suspended the worship of Jesus Christ in favour of participating in the carnally inspired veneration of an iconic political personality. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16. Consequently, Christian good works must always have the glory of God as its focus – never a man.
Your and my best example of a life of sacrifice is Jesus! He is the only perfect man that walked the earth and whose life, death and resurrection defines true servant leadership. Christians are called to serve their fellow man – not for 67 minutes once a year – but every day! The reason we do good is to emulate the greatest act of love known to mankind – the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son of God on the Cross of Calvary. The world does its best to ignore this event. But Christians in sacrificial and voluntary service all over the world are a constant reminder of this historical fact.
Romans 12:2 declares “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The veneration of political icons and Hollywood celebrities is very definitely conforming to the pattern of this world. It is good to honour and respect Nelson Mandela for his sacrifice and leadership – but our service, praise, glory, and worship belongs to Christ alone!