Prayer Upon The Deathbed of an Atheist
Galatians 6: 7 Don't be misled--you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. (NLT)
Avowed atheist Christopher Hitchens once said, "And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith". I could never personally tell whether Hitchens arrogant style overshadowed his bluster or not when I wrote politically years ago. I had several run-ins with him and his loose usage of truth to fit his political ideology but I always wondered when he found himself facing the end, if he would jump in the proverbial foxhole or not. So far, the man who claims to base his beliefs not on faith; is sticking to his story.
You see, Christopher Hitchens is dying. Considered one of the foremost literary and political writers of our time, Hitchens has always prided himself on his firm stance against the belief in God. Suffering from end-stage oesophagus cancer, he has not swayed from his disbelief. When I think back to his life I may still find the same arrogance and bloated sense of self combined with an aversion for the truth but yet today I find myself drawn to pray for Christopher Hitchens. Because tomorrow he faces eternity and the God who created him.
Then the L ord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person. Genesis 2: 7 (NLT)
And we serve a truly loving God. A God, who despite the long history of enmity Hitchens shows to Him, would forgive him if he only asked. I know this gives many a Christian pause. We serve God for many years or even decades and yet the same salvation we enjoy is offered freely to a man who openly and brazenly defied God with every breath he took for his entire life? Yes. We need to be cautious as believers to remember that it is only by the grace of God were we originally saved. What creeps into us sometimes is the spirit of the older brother from the parable of the prodigal son.
You know the story, a son asks his father for his inheritance and he goes off into the world where he lives a life contrary to his father. This is much like Mr. Hitchens. He spends his life on carousing and alcohol, a vice Mr. Hitchens readily admits to. The other son remains with his father and works his land. This can be considered us in the church. But God is such a loving father that he does not write off the prodigal son and God has also not written Mr. Hitchens off.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2Peter 3: 9 (NIV)
The Lord desires everyone to come to repentance. He wants none to perish. One of the more confused arguments atheists use is how can a loving God consign anyone to hell but they miss the true point with that statement. God does not consign anyone to hell, people willfully choose to go. I know it is a topic that is not often preached upon in modern churches because it is not very "seeker-friendly" or "purpose driven" but as the key verse states today, God will not be mocked. There is a choice we all have to make in this lifetime that will determine where we are eternally. But in the parable, we see the stance our Father always has for those who are lost:
"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15: 20 (NLT)
Without directly stating it, this tells us that the Father was obviously looking towards the horizon for his lost son. He was waiting hopefully; that His son would come back home. He is filled with love and compassion for us, even in our fallen state. Note that the father did not run and say "I told you so" or "You're lucky I'm a nice guy and will take you back." That is the human version of love. Not the Godly version. I thank God that He never gave up on me. And when I realize that; I am forced to realize that He has not given up on anyone Christopher Hitchens anyone. So who am I to secretly wish anything else but what God wants? I know who I would end up being the older brother:
"The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, 'All these years I've slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!' Luke 15: 28-30 (NLT)
We were all Christopher Hitchens at one point in our lives before returning to our heavenly Father. Sure, maybe we didn't openly and brazenly defy Him on television and in books but we did so secretly with our lives. Maybe we said we believed in God but lived as if He didn't matter. Which I ask today is truly worse? Look at the spirit the older son has. He stayed with the father but did so begrudgingly. As the years passed by, the son actually started to view his work as slavery! His focus is on himself and everything he did for the father.
Beloved we need to be careful for this spirit in our walk and in our church. God does not need us we need Him. We cannot allow our service for Him to become resentful to us. The term prodigal means "wastefully or recklessly extravagant." This term is used because of the lifestyle of the younger son before he came to his senses. But realize that we too can become wasteful and extravagant in our faith as well. We can start to think that it somehow has something to do with us when it always must have everything to do with Him! This parable is also called the parable of the lost son because the younger son was lost but in the end was found. The true sadness of this parable is that the son, who was always found, ended up being truly lost. You see the younger son knew his father but lived as though He didn't matter. But the older son pretended that his father mattered, all the while building up resentment in his heart. Which again I ask is truly worse?
You see, Christopher Hitchens believes what he believes and we believe he is mistaken. The irony of course is that what we both employ in our beliefs is faith. I have faith in the God who created the universe and he has faith in man, who swears to him that science is the only true god. The quote I selected at the start of this devotional is to highlight the need someone who believes in atheism has to insist that they do not have faith when in fact they often have more faith. The truth is that yesterday's science is today's old wives tales. The "hot" theory, and let us always realize we are dealing with theories, used to be the "big bang theory." That is defined as follows:
"A cosmological theory holding that the universe originated approximately 20 billion years ago from the violent explosion of a very small agglomeration of matter of extremely high density and temperature."