“All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:21-22)
Imagine waking up to this news: Richard Dawkins, regarded by many as the world’s foremost atheist, has just converted to Christianity and is boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus.
What do you suppose would be the reaction to news such as this? I’m sure shock and puzzlement would be the immediate response by people from all backgrounds. There would probably be suspicion on the part of the Christian community, and perhaps even some anger directed at Mr. Dawkins. What is he playing at? How did this happen? Even after the news had sunk in and been accepted, there would probably be some wondering why God would choose a man such as this instead of one of the many willing warriors already in His service.
And it would be the reaction of Mr. Dawkins’ fellow atheists that would give us the greatest clue as to the answer to this last question. While Christian preachers, missionaries, and apologists might not hold much sway with this group, a prominent individual from among their own midst certainly would. Indeed, many of them likely have adopted or confirmed their “beliefs” as a result of his “testimony.” Upon his conversion, how many across the world would question their views on evolution and humanity’s place in the universe? Wouldn’t it baffle the unbelieving world to see someone who seemed so grounded in their worldly philosophy suddenly turn to Jesus in faith?
Whether it’s Richard Dawkins or the Dalai Lama, there are certainly individuals who have the power and authority to sway the thinking of a great many people. While I think it is sadly unlikely that either of these men will convert to Christianity, such things have happened before. In fact, the reactions described above were just the type of response generated by the conversion of the Pharisee Saul (later to become St. Paul).
Saul/Paul went from trying to stamp out Christianity to being the most active evangelist in the history of the Christian Church. Through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, God has many times taken some of the Devil’s most influential proponents and brought them into His own service. The blood of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to forgive even the sins of those who have gone so far astray as to wage open warfare on the saints of God.
We must remember that our “spiritual warfare” is not a battle against “flesh and blood,” but an attack against the Devil’s lies that have captured so many men and women through false religions and ideologies. We do not fight against unbelievers, but against their unbelief. Jesus died also for them, and we have no more merit or worthiness in us than they do, except that which we have received from Christ. It may be that the Word of God we share with them is snatched up by the birds of the air or choked out by thorns and thistles. But then again, it may be that God has chosen them to be His instrument to those you or I may have great difficulty in reaching.
“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-8)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, send Your Spirit in power to change the hearts of unbelievers through the preaching of Your Word. Grant that they may come to know You through Your Son and obtain the riches of His life and salvation. Use all those who have been called to faith, that they may minister boldly and effectively to people of every background, fearlessly proclaiming Your Gospel; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, my Lord. Amen.