A Message From Pastor Margaret
Lessons from South Africa…
Soon after the release of former President
Nelson Mandela from his 27 years in prison,
and during his early years as president,
he made the call to South Africans to forgive
those who hated us, who mistreated us, and
to come together and go through a process of
truth and reconciliation. It was hard to understand
that call, since we were still trying to make sense
of the new South Africa and were still recovering from
the struggle against apartheid, which was so difficult and exhausting.
I don’t think we were prepared for this call from Madiba, an endearing family name for President Mandela. Yes, during his imprisonment we learned how to communicate effectively, to engage in mediation and negotiation work. We were preparing ourselves for a new and free South Africa. We knew we would have to go through some process of living together as black and white South Africans, but it was unclear what that would look like. Therefore, this call to forgive the other was unexpected and much deeper than we were prepared for. It was about the saving of our nation from destruction, and so we would have to sit down with one another to try and understand how such atrocities could have happened, and to be open to forgive and move forward together. That was the utmost example of radical love and mercy from the heart.
Learning from the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa, I have through the years in my work in conflict transformation, encouraged groups and individuals in conflict to work through their differences, to come together and to find healing and reconciliation. I encourage truth telling, and the acknowledgment of hurts caused to and by others. I speak about the importance of forgiving others, in order for all involved to have a future together. We have done some of that work here at Barre Congregational Church as well.
In Luke Chapter 6, verse 27 to 38, we read about this kind of radical love for the enemy, the ones who hate and wrong us, to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. From a human perspective, it is an extraordinary challenge to love in that manner. Therefore, we need our inner being to be transformed by God to allow that love to direct and guide our thoughts and actions. This love from God does not pick and choose whom we should love or not. This kind of love comes from a heart that is completely surrendered to God’s will. It is called the radical commandment of love by Jesus Christ. It is the love that is willing to give the other person another chance, to forgive and heal and reconcile.
In South Africa we saw and felt that love coming from President Nelson Mandela, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and others who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We saw in them the inner transformation that enabled them to convey and live out this message of peace and reconciliation. I am forever grateful for their examples, and for the work which God has done in my own life, and still does, to be an instrument of love, peace and reconciliation.
This radical love is not impossible to find. It is the Divine power of God at work in us. When we are hesitant to love and forgive in this way, the power of God is there to help us. When we struggle to express our hurts, the Divine power helps us to speak truth, justice and mercy.
May we all allow God to fill our hearts with this radical love and mercy.