The Faithful Servant in the Atomic Age

By: Jim O'Brien 

Hi Friend,

It was the turn of the millennium for my one and only visit to the Mother Land where I was invited to speak at the Feast of Tabernacles in York, England. Among the impressive sights were the remnants of ancient civilizations. Ancient to me was Freedom Hall in Philadelphia but here was York Minster Cathedral where Constantine was ordained Emperor of the Roman Empire in 306 A.D. 1,470 years before the United States of America became a nation.

We walked a section of Hadrian’s Wall, passed through the same gates that other humans have passed through for over a 1,000 years. Talking with friends at church I asked about the visible ruins of buildings constructed centuries before. For the first time in my life, I was seeing firsthand the remains of once magnificent structures that I had read about in 9th grade history books—buildings that had been destroyed by German bombers strafing the area during World War II, leaving only remnants from a time when Rome ruled England, now reduced to odd shaped broken skeletal spires jutting into the skyline.

C.S. Lewis witnessed the Nazi attacks. At the end of the war the world faced a new enemy—one that had never existed before. It was 1948, and the world was in a fearful panic because it had seen evidence of weapons that could erase mankind from the face of the earth. Weapons of mass destruction changed the worldview of citizens. All around London people witnessed the results of devastating destruction.

Lewis looked at the faces of friends and wrote his profound thoughts in an essay entitled, "On Living In An Atomic Age."

"How are we to live in an Atomic Age? I am tempted to reply: Just as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic age was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.

This is the first point to be made: the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

It is not unusual for Christians anticipating the tribulations before us, to experience fear, as did the disciples of Christ. Jesus reassured them, with words that may have inspired Lewis. Jesus said to those who would follow him, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has" (Matthew 24:42-44).

The Apostle Paul frequently suffered attacks of various kinds. He was attacked by angry crowds bent on killing him, bitten by a poisonous snake, shipwrecked and found himself floating in the ocean clinging to some driftwood. Yet another time he was stoned and left for dead—maybe he was dead and restored to life by God because his work was necessary for us to believe. Whatever the case, Paul was eminently familiar with the threat of loss of life. Paul was sustained by reflecting on Jesus who not only faced death, but knew prior to the time he became a man, that the purpose of his life was to die! Paul uses the example of Jesus saying, "He himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

The threat of death will exist as long as the adversary is allowed to reign—but let us not be controlled by the fear of it. However much you love your own body, it was not meant to last forever. Even an atheist recognizes that. Let him fear death. Christians look for a time when the Adversary is removed, and the Creator gives the reward to those who are "so doing" at his return.

This is no time for Christians to cower in a corner in fear of death. Our savior conquered death and we have, too. When he returns, let him find us doing our Father’s business.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien

Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati

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