Monday, December 19, 2011
The Good Guys
Last Tuesday I got to preach about Christmas and the love of God to a group of cancer survivors and their families. This is the 3rd time I've been invited to speak to them at Christmas time, for their annual Christmas gathering, and it was a great blessing for me to get to minister to them from the Word of God and get to meet so many of them.
We don't have many older people in our church, so I enjoy getting to minister to the older generation here in Hungary from time to time.
After I preached, a man came and sat down next to me, and introduced himself as an atheist. As we got to know each other, it turned out that this man, who is now 80 years old, was a former communist leader in Eger.
He told me how he had become a Communist party member in 1948, when he was 17 yrs old. This means that he not only lived through the Stalinist era of the 50's, but that he was even part of the regime during the harshest, most repressive period of communism in Hungary. Later he became the head of the biggest factory in the region (Berva), and became an upper level party leader in Eger.
His world has changed a lot since the end of communism in Hungary.
The thing that I think many people in the West don't understand about the people who were communists here in Eastern Europe, is that many of these people thought of themselves as the good guys.
They thought of themselves as those who were really compassionate and humane, who cared about creating a society where everyone was equal. They really viewed the capitalists as the bad guys who wanted to get rich by taking advantage of other people rather than creating a society characterized by equality.
They viewed themselves as morally superior to capitalists, because they believed that life is not primarily about accumulating material possessions (Jesus taught that by the way too... see Luke 12:15), and that it is better to be satisfied with having "enough" than to constantly strive for more and better material things (another Biblical concept - see 1.Tim 6:6-8)
They viewed the church as a corrupt institution, a 'good old boys club'.
They believed that certain forms of suppression of freedoms were necessary and good to protect the society they were trying to create.
This man I talked to still believed sincerely in these ideals - as did the other people we were sitting with at the table, all of whom were raised during communism. It was interesting to talk with them and hear their perspective.
The one thing I was able to tell them that I felt broke through their walls against religion was that for me Christianity is not about a church hierarchy or organization, but it is about following Jesus - his teachings and example. When I started talking about JESUS, they were captivated. Especially when I told them that many of the ideals which they believed made the 'old regime' good, were taught and exemplified by Jesus long ago.
In reality, Jesus is the revolutionary their hearts really long for. His revolution is the one that they really desire deep down - they have just been turned off from Christianity by both rhetoric and by the poor representation of Christ that some parts of the body of Christ have been guilty of throughout history.
My hope and prayer is that these people would be able to see Jesus and not the actions of men.