By Adam Jeske

We Admire Mandela. But Not Enough.

Barack Obama. Tony Blair. BBC. Fox. Bono. And most of my Facebook friends, both from the years I lived in South Africa and now back in the U.S.

Everyone is thankful for Mandela today, the day after he passed away.

Everyone is considering his legacy.

Everyone is rightly calling him a great man, a fantastic leader.

Twitter’s in on the act, too, with #RIPNelsonMandela, #Apartheid, #Madiba, and #Mandela all trending globally as I write this.

The news outlets are full of his biography, his impact, and his character:

  • Leader in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
  • Imprisoned for 27 years.
  • Advocate for constructive nonviolent engagement.
  • Bridge builder.
  • Forgave his oppressors.
  • The first Black president of South Africa.
  • Fought HIV/AIDS and poverty.

We admire Mandela, and rightly so. But I wonder if we admire him enough. I wonder if I do.

AIDS is still ravaging families and communities across South Africa and the rest of the continent. Poverty grinds others into the red dust. Wars rage. Malaria kills. Greed wrecks lives across classes and around the world. People are imprisoned unjustly. Orphans languish. Widows struggle.

I know all this. I wonder if Mandela were a young man today, how would he live? How would he act to confront issues like these?

Mandela said,

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.

But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

That’s from his trial 49 years ago.

This resonates with me as a follower of Jesus, who said,

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:23-25)

I am thankful for Mandela. I’m grateful for his legacy. But I’m wondering how to honor him. A blog post alone seems pretty lame.

How will I live differently to celebrate Mandela? (click to tweet this)

If all this celebration of Mandela’s life blows over, and we turn back to Netflix, Facebook, McDonald's, and Coke, without breathing a prayer, without actually doing something, we have failed.

We need to jump into the muck of life, stare down great evils, and steel ourselves for a long struggle.

What will I do in the world today? Next year?

What will you do?

Adam Jeske has served in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa.

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