February 11th marks twenty-eight years since Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in Cape Town, South Africa. The civil rights icon had spent nearly three decades behind bars after being sentenced to life in 1964 along with other African National Congress members. Most of his time was served in the horrendous Robben Island prison, which has been called South Africa’s Alcatraz. Freedom was granted early in 1990, when newly elected President F.W. de Klerk, who vowed to end apartheid, lifted the ban on the ANC, and ordered the release of its symbolic leader.
After gaining his freedom, Mandela made his way to City Hall, where over 100,000 South Africans were gathered to hear him speak. Addressing the large crowd, many of whom had never heard Mandela speak before, his first words were: "Comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom, I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you the people…” He would go on to say that “We have waited too long for our freedom” (npr.org). Four tough years later Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president in their first free election. He would serve his country and countrymen as President and after by continuing to advocate for social freedom and peace between all races.
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul spoke about the freedom that the Christian has been given from sin (6:7, 18, 22). Instead of imprisonment, he says that before receiving this freedom, we are “slaves” of sin (6:6, 17). This freedom is given and obtained when we die to sin through baptism and obey the teaching of the gospel (6:4, 17). What are we to do with this freedom? Just as Mandela saw his liberation as an opportunity to serve and give back, so too should we. Paul urged those who had been set free to become “instruments of righteousness” (6:13). Mandela said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” May all of us who have been set free from sin serve willingly, and advocate to bring about the freedom of as many people as we can, establishing peace between them and God.