BY CLINT LOVEALL
SPIRIT LAKE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
I have been recently listening to a book about Nelson Mandela, the remarkable man who spent 27 years in a South African prison for standing against the national policy of Apartheid separation of whites and blacks.
The book is filled with stories of Mandela's strength, wisdom, and leadership, and he is an inspirational person that everyone should probably know something about. However, one of the stories that stood out most to me was not about his achievement, but his service.
It happened during his imprisonment in the Robben Island prison, located on a small island just off the western coast of Cape Town. Robben Island housed many political prisoners there, and the treatment they received was often harsh. On general principles, prisoners were required to do daily chores and maintain an approved level of cleanliness.
Part of this task was a daily scrubbing of their toilet pan, which had to be carried to the washing area, dumped, scrubbed, and inspected before they could return to their small cell.
The man who told this story related that he was a young man at the time and had not been in the prison long. Over the course of one night he was violently ill and still suffering in bed the next morning when Mandela appeared at his door to check on him. After asking how he was doing, Mandela nodded and then without a word simply walked over and picked up the man's bathroom pan and carried out with him.
Several minutes later, Mandela returned with the freshly washed pan and then returned to repeat the process the next day. The young man was astounded, and knew that Mandela, who functioned as a kind of leader within the prison, could have easily assigned this unpleasant task to someone else. When asked about this story by his interviewer, Mandela simply thought for a moment and said, "No task is beneath that of a leader."
After Jesus washed the disciples' feet, considered a disgusting task in his day, he asked them "Do you understand what I have done for you?" Then he says a few more things but he doesn't exactly answer the question.
I wonder about that. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" I'm not sure they did. I'm not sure I do.
What do we learn from a man who will soon save the souls of millions throughout history but kneels to do the lowest job of a servant. Do you understand what I have done? I've ended hierarchy, being above others, using money, status, or anything else to position yourself ahead. I've set a new standard in which love is the motivator, and a person's worth is given not earned. It's a truly remarkable act, and a truly remarkable question.
If we answer yes, then the instructions become crystal clear, "Now go do that for others." Go love and serve like you have observed. Don't wait to be asked and don't wonder if it's your job, reach out and help. If you see someone who needs help, don't wait to see if someone else is going to do it. If you see an opportunity to bless another, take it. Don't hide behind "it's not my job," make it your mission instead.
"There is no task beneath a leader." How much could this world use more people who thought like that?