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News from the Hill December 06, 2013 | back to index

Honoring Life of Nelson Mandela


President Carter’s statement on the death of Nelson Mandela

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
—Nelson Mandela

The death of Nelson Mandela invites us all to reflect on a life marked by courage, forgiveness and grace. That he was sentenced to a life of hard labor in prison and endured it for 27 years is important. Yet, it is of far greater importance to focus on what he did and said when he was released from that ordeal. He had good cause to be bitter but did not give himself over to it. It is in this that his moral authority was established. His humility, his grace in victory and his forgiveness of his oppressors are enduring lessons that coming generations must ponder carefully.

Mandela’s observation that “until I changed myself, I could not change others” is something with which we all must come to terms. It is biblically sound, morally right and a clarion call for anyone who aspires to prophetic leadership.

The story of Mandela is a story that will rightly grace every history book, but we belittle his story if we fail to see it as a metaphor and a challenge for our own lives. Apartheid may have been defeated in South Africa but it is alive and well in far too many places here in America and abroad. Mandela’s greatest legacy may be best measured by what we do in the face of these other apartheids.

Nick Carter
President, Andover Newton Theological School