“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” – Acts 17:24-25 (NIV)
What does this speech of Paul’s say of God? What does it say of people? What does it say of you?
The following is an excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s book “Long Walk to Freedom” where he speaks of a particularly brutish officer in the prison in which he spent 19 years:
“A few days before Badenhorst’s departure, I was called to the main office. General Steyn was visiting the island and wanted to know if we had any complaints. Badenhorst was there as I went through a list of demands. When I had finished, Badenhorst spoke to me directly.
He told me he would be leaving the island and added: ‘I just want to wish you people good luck’. I do not know if I looked dumbfounded, but I was amazed. He spoke these words like a human being and showed a side of himself we had never seen before. I thanked him for his good wishes and wished him luck in his endeavours.
“I thought about this moment for a long time afterwards. Badenhorst had perhaps been the most callous and barbaric commanding officer we had had on Robben Island. But that day in the office, he had revealed that that there was another side to his nature, a side that had been obscured but still existed.
“It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency and that, if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhorst was not evil; his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour.”
Jesus told those who thought themselves as righteous that he did not come for the well but for the sick. Apparently God gives up on no one, and thereby robs no one of life and breath. Even the vilest can be changed by the love of Christ. Mandela saw in Badenhorst a flicker of the divinity with which we are all created. It is that flicker, that light that no darkness can extinguish, which Jesus works to turn into a roaring flame. If God does not give up on people, we must not either.