The week I saw the movie Twelve years a Slave, the beloved South African former president Nelson Mandela died.
Far from a coincidence for me, there is much you and I can learn from the lives of two men who passed from the scene more than 100 years apart from one another.
There are striking similarities between the lives of Solomon Northrup, the free African American who was tricked into slavery, and the South African lion whose range and expanse were shackled under the brutal yoke of apartheid.
A review of the biographies of both men would reveal the Biblical truth about the intrinsic nature of man. It is recorded that the the heart of man is desperately wicked and every imagination of his heart is evil continually. Mankind, outside of the influence and the will of a merciful God, is no more than a savage uncontrolled beast.
Their life stories seemingly confirm to us that the favorite occupation of some men is exploitation of his fellow man, especially one who is outwardly different from him. Further, as I have noted before, we have a nasty hypocritical habit of using one another up until it is no longer convenient.
Such is the case in the movie 12 Years where the cruel master uses and abuses his black concubine slave despite the threats and entreaties of his frustrated wife.
Though ostensibly born free, their movement, aspirations and dreams were highly restricted and tightly controlled and there were a thousand indignities and insults at every juncture, on every corner to remind the Black South Africans of their inferior status in life. During the incarceration of Mandela, all the black men wore short pants as a constant reminder that they were boys, and received lesser portions of the foul prison food than the other prisoners.
Surrounded by hopelessness and death, they were sorely tempted to destroy your most prized and cherished possession - the violin of Solomon Northrup or your life in the case of the black concubine.
They both witnessed evil men twist and pollute the word of God to further their wicked schemes and sinful desires.
Verses such as, "Servants obey your master for this is well pleasing to the Lord," and "Those who do not obey will be beaten with many stripes," were used to subjugate, humiliate and punish their dark-skinned brethren. It is not surprising that a lot of black people view Christianity as an opportunistic white man's religion.
Indeed, it is said in South Africa,"When the missionaries came we had the land and they had the Bible, not long after they had the land and we had the bible."
There should be a special place in hell for men who pervert the Holy Scriptures for selfish ends and take advantage of the weak, infirm, powerless and ill-informed amongst us.
Therefore, per Mr. Mandela and Mr. Northrup, it is incumbent upon each of us to pursue education in general and spiritual instruction, in particular, so you can become as the Bible declares, "a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
You will discover, as they did, that you are the equal of any man endowed with the same rights and privileges by the creator, even though the earthly systems and society's opinion may not agree. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, we are all one in Christ Jesus and the law of God. That statement works the same way for everybody all the time. There was a telling scene in the movie as the Brad Pitt character advised the Michael Fassbender character about such a possibility. There was a look of incredulity on the face and the sound of disbelief in the voice of the latter at the notion of a creature a little higher than a baboon ever being a master and he being a slave. It saddens me to say that attitude still persists in some quarters here and in South Africa.
To survive and not surrender demanded herculean efforts. You literally and figuratively had to stand on tiptoes for hours grasping for air to prevent the cold clutch of death from squeezing the last drop of oxygen from your lungs. (Solomon Northrup)
Writing detailed letters of encouragement to his family members, strangely enough, restrained Mr. Mandela from drowning in the depths of depression.
They showed us that even though life threatens to overwhelm us, people may betray us, we do what we can to survive and stubbornly refuse to fall into despair in spite of the most difficult circumstances.
If we continue to persist and endure, one day freedom and victory will come.
After walking out of the hands of our captors, we must forgive and let go of the past, as Mr. Mandela warns us, because, if not, they will still have us.
As Mr. Northrup found out, to his profound disappointment, you may not obtain redress in the courts and your tormentors may not be called into account.
Neverthless, we take comfort in the knowledge that the Supreme Jurist of the universe does not slumber nor sleep, his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth and everything is open and exposed unto Him.
It is my hope for both men that the next time their eyes reopen from the long sleep, they will find themselves in Beulah Land where peace flows like a river and righteousness, justice and equity like a mighty stream.
In this place, the presiding Judge cannot be seduced by the wicked devices of men, neither bribed nor borrowed, who confidently assures the forlorn unjustly handled soul," Vengeance is mine, saith He, I will repay."
V. Knowles is a husband and father with an interest in penning issues that serve to uplift mankind. He melds his love for Classic literature, The Bible and pop culture - as sordid as it may be - into highly relatable columns of truth, faith and justice. Hence the name: Just Thinking. If he's not buried in a book or penning his next column, you may find him pinned to his sectional watching a good old Country and Western flick.