Building and Sustaining
“But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into
him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined
and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as
each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in build-
ing itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15–16)
Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, writes: “The freedom struggle [is] not merely a question of making speeches, holding meetings, passing resolutions, and sending deputations, but of meticulous organization, militant mass action, and, above all, the willingness to suffer and sacrifice.”1 Meticulous organization. Militant mass action. The willingness to suffer and sacrifice. This triadic formula of Nelson Mandela for the freedom struggle is tough stuff. Meticulous organization requires ongoing discipline. Militant mass action is fueled by righteous anger. The willingness to suffer and sacrifice demands enduring courage. The long walk to freedom is, in the words of Jesus, a “narrow path” that few are prepared to take.
The struggle for a truly free and just society goes nowhere if its leaders are primarily interested in making speeches, conducting meetings, and carving out a comfortable place for their ego expansion. The struggle dies on the vine if it is built around a few charismatic individuals without constructing powerful organizations with trained leadership, an expanding network of relationships, and a solid financial base. To speak of the “freedom struggle,” “a just society,” and “metropolitan equities” is only to use empty rhetoric if we are content with moderate, cathartic adjustments to entrenched, oppressive systems. If the pain and human degradation all around us doesn’t stir up within us sufficient anger to want to shake the foundations of this society, then it’s probably best for us to go back to playing church and to leave organizing to those whose commitment is real.
“Above all, the willingness to suffer and sacrifice”—this part of Mandela’s triadic formula for freedom should come as no surprise to Christians.