The world is mourning Nelson Mandela this week. The first black South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, known by everyone for his efforts to bring peace and freedom to all people, died on December 5.
As we reflect on his life, here are three things his life and actions can teach us about loving our neighbors—whether they are next door or around the world:
Love is peace-making. Mandela is perhaps best known for being a peacemaker. He strove to bring peace to South Africa, a nation rife with political and racial unrest. He fought against apartheid and for the freedom of all oppressed peoples. It was the work for peace that took Mandela to prison early in his political career. He was willing to sacrifice years of his own life to bring peace to oppressed people. Even after retiring, he worked with other world leaders to spread peace and justice throughout the world.
Mandela was passionate about peace, to put it mildly.
Love is about peace. When we love others, we strive to make peace with them and for them. There are many ways to promote peace in how we live our lives. Peacemaking may look like forgiving a sibling, or it may look like donating or raising funds for a non-profit working for justice.
Love is hardworking. Looking at Mandela’s life, it’s obvious he worked hard to achieve his goals. He studied in school in order to know as much as he possibly could about the law and history of his country. Even while he was in prison, he worked to get a degree via a correspondence program. He did not stop working in the political realm until he was over 80 years old. Even then, he continued to work with various groups to promote peace and find solutions to problems around the world.
Love is hard work. No one mistakes love as easy. It is difficult and often requires much effort and selflessness. Loving your neighbor may require getting out of your comfort zone, going out of your way, or denying your own preferences.
Love is humble. Those closest to Mandela comment on his humility. Many were surprised that such an influential man could be so down-to-earth. Mandela credited his imprisonment with helping his humility. It allowed him to listen to the opinions of the people in his country and think about his own life and actions. He was quick to point out his own mistakes and he was willing to learn from them. Mandela didn’t believe he was any different than any other person—he believed we are all able to make a difference in this world.
Love requires humility. Perfect love is putting others before yourself. Jesus demonstrated this to us on the cross and we are expected to treat others with humility, seeing others as more important and putting their needs before our own.
Many will reflect on Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy in the coming days. As we look at how he lived, let’s take note of the ways he loved like Jesus and try to do the same in our own lives.
Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
—1 Cor. 13:4-7