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Deuteronomy 6:6

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, the literary genius, said of his life: “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead, and there is no current to plug into.”

This is a startling statement, given the fact that Hemingway’s life would be the envy of anyone who had bought the values of our modern society. Hemingway was known for his tough-guy image and globe-trotting pilgrimages to exotic places. He was a big-game hunter, a bullfighter, a man who could drink the best of them under the table. He was married four times and lived his life seemingly without moral restraint or conscience. But on a sunny Sunday morning in Idaho, he pulverized his head with a shotgun blast.

There was another side to Hemingway’s life, one that few people know about. He grew up in an evangelical Christian home. His grandparents were missionaries, and his father was a devoted churchman and friend of evangelist D. L. Moody. Hemingway’s family conformed to the strictest codes of Christianity, and as a boy and young man he was active in his church.

Then came Word War I. As a war correspondent, Hemingway saw death and despair firsthand. His youthful enthusiasm for Christianity soured, and Hemingway eventually rejected the faith he had once claimed.

While we don’t know all that transpired in Hemingway’s heart, it seems he never developed a truly personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Genuine Christianity means more than living in a Christian environment, going through catechism, conforming to the codes, and affirming the truths of Scripture. True Christians are non-negotiated followers of Christ, those who are progressively moving toward Him and who understand all of life in the context of His teaching.

The point is not Hemingway’s life. It’s my life and your life. If we aren’t cultivating a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ, then we, too, may respond as Hemingway did when life’s questions are agonizingly unanswerable or when our inner impulses are too seductive for us to resist. An allegiance based on systems, rituals, and rules is never enough to keep us loyal.

“Moody,” January/February 1997, pp. 23-24

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