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Give the best of all gifts: Forgive one another

We are living in a day where in San Bernardino, Calif., a group of co-workers went to a holiday party, but did not know they were risking their lives celebrating love. A couple of homegrown terrorists came in and took their lives.

Violence in America has become an everyday event and if we ever needed to know the real meaning of Christmas the time is now. The events of our world should drive us back to the original purpose for this season. Love is still alive no matter how hard hate tries to kill it. Let’s not let violence be the definition of who we are; let’s let love be the definition of who we are on the inside.

It is my suggestion that we stop advertising the killers and only mention the names of the victims. The quickest way to become nationally known in America is to do something horrible and take the lives of others.

Let’s not advertise the problem; let’s advertise the answer. A few years ago we read an article in the Wall Street Journal that stated the United States does not have the strictest gun laws, nor do we have the most liberal gun laws. There are other countries with stricter gun laws and other countries with more liberal gun laws or none at all, but we are the No. 1 country for violence by guns in the world.

To me this implies that although laws are important, it’s not just about the law. It’s something in our culture. The article I read suggested that only in America do we constantly advertise the event for two to three weeks, hourly and daily, and end up making the killer a household name, a celebrity for their crime. We interview their parents. We interview their brothers and sisters. We interview their next door neighbors, their aunts and uncles, their co-workers, people who saw them walk down the street; we make them too important.

Others who watch who may have a mental defect come to the conclusion that if I want to be famous I should copycat what they did. Let us take a lesson from other countries and not show their picture, not mention their name, and allow the police or the authorities in charge to do their investigation without reporting every detail.

I want to remind you, there once was a man who died just a few years ago, who started out in what some would call a negative past, but ended up in a positive one. They say that there are over 7 billion people on the Earth. I personally believe that only God knows the exact count. It probably changes every second. We don’t even know who lives in our own neighborhood. There is no way for us to know.

There are good people, bad people and down right ugly people, not necessary ugly in outward appearance, but in actions and attitudes. There are also beautiful people not just in outward appearance but also in actions and attitudes. A few years ago during this month we put to rest a man who may have done some ugly things in his past, but turned it around and for the overwhelming majority of his life did some beautiful things. It was said and it is true that it is an honor to have been on the planet at the same time as Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918, in the tiny village of Mvezo, South Africa.

“Rolihlahla” in the Xhosa language is said to mean “troublemaker.” He was the first in his family to attend school. A British teacher encouraged him to change his first name to Nelson. His first political office of record was at the University College of Fort Hare, the only college for blacks to attend in South Africa at the time. There Nelson Mandela was elected to what we would call the student council president. While there he helped change the food menu in the cafeteria. It was considered a big issue to the students. He did this by doing student protests and boycotts and finally resigning from his position as an act of defiance no longer wanting to work with the college authority. He was eventually expelled from school because of this action. He then ran away from home and settled in Johannesburg, where he completed his bachelor’s degree via correspondence classes. He then enrolled at the University of Witwatersr and in Johannesburg to study law.

During that time he joined the anti-apartheid movement by getting involved in the African National Congress in 1942, better known as the ANC. At the same time he founded the law firm Mandela and Tambo, partnering with Oliver Tambo. The firm provided free and low-cost legal counsel to unrepresented blacks. In 1956, Mandela and 150 others were arrested and charged with treason for their political advocacy. In 1961, he changed from doing nonviolent protests and began to believe in the armed struggle was the only way to achieve change. There were so many events good and bad that this one article could not contain it all.

These are some things that we believe must be mentioned. In 1991, he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993, Mandela and President de Klerk were awarded the Noble Peace Prize working toward ending apartheid. On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first democratic election. Nelson Mandela was elected the country’s first black president at the age of 77 making former President de Klerk his first deputy.

No wonder Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

I like what Oscar Wilde said, “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” No matter how you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, know that we are most like God when we choose to forgive. It’s one of the best gifts of all.

(Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Temple, Wheeling, and Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly, Weirton.)

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