My friends Mary and Mallory sent me a copy of God’s Smuggler, the story of Brother Andrew and his ministry behind the Iron Curtain during the fifties and sixties. Let me tell you, the things this man has experienced are ca-razy. And ca-razy awesome.
I’ve learned a lot spiritually, but also just historically by reading this book. I didn’t really have any idea how the Communist countries in Europe treated Christians and Christianity during that time until I read this book. Brother Andrew was (still is?) a Bible smuggler. There were Christians behind the Iron Curtain who had no access to Bibles, churches that didn’t have Bibles, pastors that didn’t have Bibles.
Sometimes, I just can’t fathom that. Sometimes (read: all the time), I forget that the freedom I have to possess a Bible is not universal across this world. I own four different Bibles. The church I attend has a Bible under every seat for each person to follow along with during the sermon. When Brother Andrew visited a church in Yugoslavia, only seven people in the entire congregation had Bibles, and they had to work out a rotation to share the Bibles across the congregation throughout the week. In Russia, the pastor of a church had to borrow a Bible from one of the attendees in order to read the reference for his sermon.
There was no moment in the story when Brother Andrew had to hand over his own Bible. In any case, he couldn’t, because the people he was ministering too couldn’t speak his language. However, it did get me thinking… Would I be willing to do that, to leave my Bible with someone who needs it because I have the incredible freedom to simply go home and buy a new one?
It also makes me think twice when I open my Bible to read. Today, I wasn’t particularly feeling the Scriptures I was reading. I was trying to reread what I’d already read in Luke and also trying to read a few ‘boring’ passages in 1 Chronicles. But oh my goodness, I have the freedom and the ability to read and reread the Bible, any time I want. I don’t have to pass it off to someone else, I don’t have to wait for church on Sunday. When these Christians in Communist countries received the Bibles smuggled in by Brother Andrew, they accepted them in awe and reverence. Brother Andrew even notes that they handled their Bibles with more care than he did. I don’t think they would’ve felt bored or apathetic about rereading a Gospel or working through a dense history record in the Old Testament. They would have read joyfully, grateful for the opportunity to actually hold God’s word in their hands and read it for themselves.
I don’t want to take the Bible for granted.