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Soul Survivor: Dostoevsky and the Maw of Death

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Currently Reading
Soul Survivor : How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church
By Philip Yancey
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Where Tolstoy saw his aching need, and contrived every means under the sun to meet it (pause – He missed the whole point! Chrsit's sacrifice was sufficient to bridge the great divide…oh Tolstoy….), Dostoevsky saw God's grace in full. His near death experience, a joke, or rather a lesson, played on him by the tsar, changed his life completely. He was sent out to the firing squad, part of a young radical group, and just as the rifles were placed on the shoulders of the shooters, a horse galloped up with their reprive notice – a sentence of hard labour instead. Maybe we all need that, and experience that shakes us to our core and teaches us the value of life, so we don't grumble and complain every time Wendy's takes an extra 5 min to get our meal ready. I can't say that I've completely learned my lesson, but I sure got a glimpse of it when my wife came down with Hodgkins disease. I became painfully aware of the value of life as I considered that I could lose her, as well as the baby that was growing inside her.

Yancey expounds on this theme of grace that pervaded Dostoevsky's theology on p.141 –

"…the gospel of grace infiltrates this world not primarily through words and rational arguments but through deeds, through love. The people I was learnin gto admire the most, such as Paul Brand adn Robert Coles, were expressing their faith through action, incarnationally. As I travelled t oothe countries – Brazil, Nepal, the Philipines, KJenya – I found humble people who eac hday faced human problems more extreme than I could imagine, and yet who responded not with paralysis or resentment, but with compassion and love….To followJesus, I learned, does not mean to solve every human problem – Christ himself did not attempt that-but rather respond as he did, against all reason to dispense grace and love to those who deserve it the least."

We will never measure up, as Tolstoy himself realized, but we don't have to. And neither should we inflict that standard on our other brothers or sisters, or eve nthe worlds, the rich or the downtrodden, whether or not their plot is their fault through choices. God's condemnation of our sin has been met! Satisfied! Finished! Yes there is truth. Yes there is right and wrong. But who measures up? Nobody! That's what the law is there for, to show us how completely useless it is for us to do so. We can't even follow the 10 commandments. without failing. So grace is given, and freely given, through Jesus. "God loves us not for who we are and what we have done, but because of who God is. Grace flows to all who accept it…it extends even to the people who nailed Jesus to the cross." (p.145)

For me, I need this. I need to stop judging people in my mind, wishing they would follow the truth more closely. God will deal with them. I can speak the truth in love, but love is the key. Am I extending grace and love to all around me, pointing the way to Jesus? Am I looking to "stir up love" as I heard a brother say on Sunday?

May I have the grace to do so, much more frequently.


One comment on “Soul Survivor: Dostoevsky and the Maw of Death

  1. I have read “The Jesus I Never Knew” by Philip Yancey. It is an excellent book.

    “Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky”

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