Christopher Hitchens, prodigious author, raging atheist, and one of those for whom Christ suffered and died on the cross, has passed away from cancer. His life was full of choices and challenges. Heavy drinking and smoking, failed marriages, cancer of the esophagus, anger and bitterness to all major world religions, one must wonder why I would choose to memorialize him in this blog.
Mr. Hitchens, for all his faults and failures, worldly successes and fame, was a sinner, just as I am, and just as you are. His life was an example of the hold that sin can have on someone, and the power of the temptation of the devil.
He is not, however, an example of the vengeance of the Lord. Christopher Hitchens didn’t get cancer because God decided to punish him for the book God is not Great in 2007. He is not dead because the Lord turned His wrath on this “evil man.” Not at all. Instead, the Lord allowed Mr. Hitchens a long life, 62 years worth, and had him cross paths with many different Christians throughout his time on earth. I dare to say that Christopher Hitchens was preached the Gospel more than most men.
Our God is a merciful God, as the psalmist says in Psalm 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” The Lord is so merciful, He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be crucified for Christopher Hitchens. That is not a God of vengeance, or a God of raging anger. If the Lord had chosen to punish Christopher Hitchens, He would have destroyed him in 2007, or when he left his wife, or renounced his Christian upbringing as a youth.
Instead, the Lord gave Mr. Hitchens a long life, filled with struggle and temptation, the life He gives us all. It is a life which knows sin, and all the pain that comes with it. And through that pain and sin Jesus stands waiting, and we cling to the cross, and receive the salvation our God gives us through the faith He brings us in baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and hearing His Word.
I am sad for the death of Christopher Hitchens. Death is not the natural, created state of man. It is the result of sin. His death reminds me that we all will die. But in our earthly death, our faith brings us to new life in Christ Jesus for those who believe. I hope that Mr. Hitchens was able to remember that Gospel he heard so many times, and that the Holy Spirit was able to work in his heart. May God have mercy.