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Nelson Mandela: Was He Converted to Christ?

Nelson Mandela has left us. A great man, an inspiration, a gift of God to the world for this time. As someone with Asperger Syndrome, I think it would be good to try to be like him in his graciousness.

This page, however, addresses a question that I think has not been sufficiently addressed on the World Wide Web: Was Nelson Mandela converted to Christ? I trust it is helpful; please comment if you have any more information. Thank you. A.B. 8 December 2013

I have heard several times over the years that Nelson Mandela was converted to Christ in prison. That, a few years before he was released, he asked Jesus Christ to be his saviour and master.

I have heard that this was through the ministry of Billy Graham, who corresponded with Nelson Mandela while in prison. I also heard that Billy Graham was 'following up' Nelson Mandela and would have liked a bit longer to help him before he was released.

I also heard from someone - I think it was a Methodist minister - that he gave Holy Communion to Nelson Mandela while in prison, and that, during this, Nelson prayed for his captors. Jesus had urged us to "Pray for your persecutors".

However, in the late 1990s, someone told me she had seen Nelson Mandela say, on television, that he didn't want to be known as a Christian. This caused me concern. Was it true, and if so, what implications should I take from it?

In the early 2000s I met Joseph Kobo in our church, one of Nelson Mandela's nephews. Joseph had been a fighter in South Africa, but had come back to Christ while in prison because God spoke to him one day, "What are you doing here, Joseph?" He confirmed that Nelson Mandela had indeed made a commitment to Christ and, I think he told me that Nelson was going on with Christ.

So what about not wanting to be known as a Christian (if true)? Having led a couple of people from another religion to Christ, I realise now there is a difference between "being a Christian" and "following Jesus Christ as Master and Saviour". I am happy for them to be known as "follower of Jesus" rather than "Christian". The word 'Christian' has so many bad as well as good connotations, and sometimes even does dishonour to the One Whose Name it bears. Is this what Nelson Mandela might have meant? Was he a true follower of Jesus Christ? Is that not the important thing?

Nelson Mandela's life and attitude since before he left prison seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit of God was working in him to develop "the fruit of the Spirit" - love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (humility) and self-control [Galatians 5:22,23].

Could Nelson Mandela be one of those in whom the whole three dimensions of salvation were active? That is, according to Romans 8, forgiveness of sins by the Blood of Christ, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, bringing resurrection power to the entire 'groaning creation'?


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About This Page

Offered to God as on-going work, this page is designed to stimulate discussion on various topics, as part of Andrew Basden's pages that open up various things from one of the Christian perspectives. Contact details.

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Created: 8 December 2013. Last updated: 17 August 2014 dealt with all '../../'.