Friday, December 06, 2013

First Friday of Advent

Seek good and not evil,
     that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of
         hosts, will be with you,
     just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
     and establish justice in the
(Amos 5:14-15a)

You live in a nation where people with the same color of skin as you are treated as second-class, or worse; are kept in devastating and debilitating poverty; are seen as having no true rights, and deserving of none now or in the future.

How do you react?

You are sent to prison for more than 25 years.  You are cut off from your friends and family.  Guards treat you with inhumanity.  You spend much of your time in harsh, back and spirit breaking work of crushing rocks.  You have no freedom and are seen as deserving none now or in the future.

What sort of person do you become?

You could become bitter, angry, hostile.  You could become vengeful, with that deep thirst for an eye for an eye sort of justice which is rooted in such conditions.  You could be filled with hate and let it overflow from you in every conversation, every situation, every encounter with another person.  You could become the role model for every person who longs to respond with violence, with enmity, with utter disregard for the lives of others because of what your life has become.

Or you could become Nelson Mandela.  You could model grace in the most ungracious of situations.  You could respond with love to those whose hate for you is worn on their faces and heard in their voices every day.  You could desire the freedom of your people, and all who are oppressed by systems which have no true humanity.  You could become a role model for non-violence in responding to those with the power to crush everything, and everyone, in their path.

As one commentator said, we don't need to wait for the judgment of history to know of Nelson Mandela's legacy.  We see it every day in people who are more forgiving, because he was willing to forgive; in people who are more gracious, because grace was what you saw on his face and heard in his voice; in people who work for freedom for those who have none, who are a voice for those with no advocate, who are seekers of good, not evil, because that is how he lived.

What a privilege to have been alive in the time of Nelson Mandela.

© 2013  Thom M. Shuman

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