March 30, 2023

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I've been to South Africa multiple times, and so when I heard about the death of Nelson Mandela, it caught my attention. He, of course, was the first black President in South Africa, where the 90% black majority had never had the right to vote. Or many other basic human rights for that matter.

Four American Presidents, the head of the United Nations, the leaders of scores of nations; they all attended the memorial service to honor him.

I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "How to Be Free From the Invisible Prison."

Beyond all the tributes of those powerful people, Nelson Mandela actually had a message that I took personally, and it might be good for you to hear about how to be truly free. Because what changed his nation can help change ours. It can change our family. It could change a feud; a fractured relationship.

I remember when Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by our government. But now, he's lauded as one of the great, and maybe the greatest leaders of our time. He was imprisoned when he finally resorted to violence to end apartheid; a policy that empowered 10% of the population to suppress the 90%. I visited South Africa during that time, and I'll tell you, it felt like a nation at war.

And I was there after a worldwide outcry brought about Nelson Mandela's release after 27 years of crippling imprisonment. Within four years, the walls of apartheid came crashing down. And stunningly, Nelson Mandela had been elected the leader of his nation.

But the Mandela that came out of prison wasn't the same one who went in. The younger Mandela was full of hate and bitterness for what had been done to his people. But something happened; something that changed him - and ultimately saved a nation. He forgave. He said, "As I walked out the door toward that gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." Wow! That's powerful!

See, unforgiveness means the very person who hurt us, in a sense, controls us with our permission. We continually replay what they did to us, and then we insure that it will poison our present and our future. But forgiving cuts the rope that ties us to the hurts and the hurters of the past. As President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was suddenly in the power position. He had the power to get even and to punish. But instead, he reached out to those who had been his "enemies," speaking their language, including them in his government, embracing one of the most despised symbols of the white-dominated past - the national rugby team.

And the nation that was poised to explode into a race war became a beacon of reconciliation. Nelson Mandela's journey to forgiveness was played out on a global stage. Mine isn't. But the stakes for me and my little personal world are just as high. Will I keep letting unforgiveness make me a prisoner of the pain of my past? Will I let the healing begin by trying to build a bridge where there's been a wall for a long time?

Poet Maya Angelou said in an interview, "It is a gift to yourself to forgive and I would say that Nelson Mandela's gift to the world was his ability to forgive." That's a gift we need to reach out for, and we need to start giving it.

One man's forgiving had saved a nation. It can help save a marriage, It can help save a relationship with a parent or child. Forgiving Is hard, but it sets people free. And I know the power of forgiveness, because I have been forgiven by someone I have sinned against over and over again. His name is Jesus. He paid a price for what I've done that went far beyond a prison sentence. He paid my death sentence.

The Bible says "He was pierced...crushed...His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man" (Isaiah 53:5-6; 52:14). Beyond that what happened in His soul when He was cut off from God the Father so I would never have to be. And the Bible says, "everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name" (Acts 10:43).

If you'd reach out and say, "Jesus, I claim you as my only possible rescuer from my sin. I need your forgiveness. Would you erase from God's book every wrong thing I've ever done?" See, that's the new beginning miracle Jesus does for anyone who takes for themselves what He did on the cross. And I'd love to help you meet the great Forgiver today. Join me at and let your new story begin.



Hutchcraft Ministries
P.O. Box 400
Harrison, AR 72602-0400

(870) 741-3300
(877) 741-1200 (toll-free)
(870) 741-3400 (fax)


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