Some people imagine that belief in God is at best delusional and at worst dangerous. The late John Lennon seemed to fall into the former group. He asked us to, “Imagine there’s no heaven.” The once mighty Soviet Union fell into the latter group. She arrayed her armies, governments, media, school system and very culture against belief in a loving God. In the Soviet Union anyone who believed in God was no better than an opium addict, a delusional, destructive and dangerous drain on society. Special units of the police searched out Christians and imprisoned or murdered them; they banned and burned Bibles and required children to attend classes which preached against the existence of God. In the U.S.S.R. belief in God was outlawed.
Like the people described in Revelation, they seemed to hope that the mountains would fall on them and hide them “from the face of him who sits on the throne.” Yet, is there anything in the universe tenacious enough–including a vivid imagination–to keep God’s love at bay?
What is it in your life or your part of the world that attempts to keep God’s love at bay, that bans belief?
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Irina Ratushinskaya, Christian poet and Russian dissident
School-girl Irina Ratushinskaya, grew up in the U.S.S.R. when belief in God was against the law. Yet she could not imagine there was no God. Sitting through one of her required anti-God courses, Irina began to think, “There must be a God. Otherwise they wouldn’t tell us over and over that there is no God.” To find out for herself Irina Ratushinskaya began to pray and the outlaw God answered her–first through a freak snow storm and then through the writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Years after that initial prayer, Irina Ratushinskaya saw her first Bible. Upon reading it she made another discovery. “Then I realized that I was a Christian,” she says. Irina Ratushinskaya became a world-renowned poet and was convinced of the reality of the love of Jesus Christ despite being raised in a country in which it was illegal to believe.
Let me ask again. Is there anything in the universe tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Yes, there is, though the Soviet Union failed to do so.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair was born in the United States where no laws or armies prevent belief in God. Just the opposite. God’s name is stamped on our currency. Crosses, the ultimate symbol of God’s love, stand tall in every American city. Word of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ is available on any street corner, radio or television. Freedom to believe in God, or not, is a sacred right for all Americans.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair imagined, no, fiercely believed, there was no God and spent her life crusading against belief in the same God the U.S.S.R. failed to eliminate. She pleaded her case of unbelief all the way to the Supreme Court and was instrumental in having prayer removed from public schools. Forming an organization named the American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O’Hair litigated, cussed, fought and debated her way through thirty years of disbelief. Seemingly, Madalyn Murray O’Hair had the mirror opposite experience of Irina Ratushinskaya. As if she had said, “They talk about God so much, surely there must be no such Person.”
Tragically, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was robbed and murdered in 1995, along with her son, Jon and granddaughter, Robin, by an estranged employee and member of American Atheists. To pay her back taxes the IRS auctioned off her journals. Of all the insights those journals held into “the most hated woman in America,” as she called herself, the most revealing was how she repeated one phrase at least a half-dozen times. Though Madalyn Murray O’Hair was surrounded by belief in God, she remained impervious to God’s love. In her journals she cried out, “Somebody, somewhere, love me.”
Again, is there anything, anywhere tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Yes–a hardened human heart. No lack of desire, effort or power on God’s part kept the echo of his answer, “Madalyn, I love you” from reaching her ears. God’s respect for human freedom and dignity gave Madalyn Murray O’Hair the power to ignore his love.
Someone once said, “You can lead a horse to water; but even God won’t make it drink.”
So it is with each of us.
One ancient struggler, Paul, wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love! But we can refuse love’s entry to our hearts. Our hearts accommodate love (Jesus Christ himself) only where hate, fear and self-centeredness have fled. Like dogs on a tether we race, yapping in our assumed freedom, only to be yanked back, imprisoned by the measure of a heart not yielded to God.
“Somebody, somewhere, love me.”
Finally, is anything tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Your heart, and my heart, hardened by the cares of this age, can and do. Yet the Gentleman God placed himself on the cross with his arms spread in an eternal embrace. “Come to me,” he said, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com