In the movie Invictus, Morgan Freeman portrays former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nelson Mandela. As the nation’s first anti-apartheid president he faced an unprecedented challenge; directing the country into a future that would learn from, but not mirror its past. For many, the change in leadership signaled a turning of the tides; a reversal of fortune. People whose voices had been silenced by oppression and fear were now being heard loud and clear, making the message all the more important. But what Mandela understood above all was that this new voice had to be one of peace, understanding and forgiveness. This was evident in many decisions he made in the film, but most clearly established in one conversation.
Mandela has made the decision to desegregate his personal security staff – a decision that was questioned by the new leader of the bodyguards. The head of security complained to Mandela who listened to his concerns and then explained his decision using the following words:
“Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
As I heard these words, I couldn’t help but think that this is the very sentiment that was displayed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Arrested in the middle of the night, accused falsely and on trumped up charges, tried and convicted quickly, sent to Pilate where he was scourged and ultimately condemned, forced to carry a cross to which He was nailed and on which He died. As He was led to His death, He was whipped, beaten, and scorned. His death was one of the most horrific and painful ever devised, and yet, in all of this He had the ability to respond to his tormentors with forgiveness.
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” – Luke 23:34
If the story ended there, this would be one of the greatest demonstrations of forgiveness ever given. But take a moment and consider this – the forgiveness displayed on the cross pales in comparison to the forgiveness found afterward. Many people, like Mandela, have forgiven those who have wronged them. Some have even forgiven those who would ultimately be responsible for their own deaths. But in His resurrection, Christ not only spoke the words of forgiveness but He made forgiveness the reality in which we can now live our lives every day. He has established for us a new future – one where we have the opportunity to forgive, to be forgiven, and to live unified as a body of believers moving toward an eternity of praising the God whose great love for us made this future possible.