I have been a fan of Nelson Mandela since the 1980s, when he was nothing more to me than a lyric in a catchy dance tune. So I find no fault with those who are lining up to laud this incredible man and his legacy.
One British journalist thinks you can’t go too far with praise for Mandela. Writing for The Telegraph, Peter Osborne suggests, “Few human beings can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela was one.” At first blush, this seems a bridge too far. Whatever his accomplishments, comparing Mandela to Christ is like comparing apples to THE CREATOR OF EVERYTHING, INCLUDING APPLES (sorry for shouting).
But shouldn’t those of us who call ourselves Christians be making this sort of comparison every day? If Jesus is our goal, there should be some times (a daily examen perhaps, or in the confessional) when we trot out that yardstick to find just how short we’ve fallen. And, of course, there is no shortage of company for this particular brand of misery. St. Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The consolation is that, in the grand scatter-graph of spirituality, we’re probably not very far behind Nelson Mandela. Or Mother Teresa. Or the greatest saint you can name. The bad news is that we’re really not much further ahead than Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, or the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Even the best Christians do a really bad impression of Jesus.
Sometimes, it’s nice to have something a little easier to shoot for. Thanks, Nelson.
Photo courtesy of Myrtille MLB, photoxpress.com