In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, a Russian peasant boy was dutifully taught the Word of God by his parents and fellow villagers. They labored diligently, hoping the Scriptures would shape his life, not knowing that the boy would one day become Premier of the Soviet Republic.
Sadly, the adult life of that young boy – named Nikita Khrushchev – didn’t reflect the truth of the Scriptures by which he was raised.
Without a doubt, Nikita Khrushchev was nurtured under the teaching of the Word of God. Late in life, even Khrushchev himself recalled, “My mother was very religious. Likewise her father – my grandfather…. I remember being taught to kneel and pray in front of the icons with the grown-ups in church.” Further reflection led him to “vividly remember the saints on the icons against the wall of our wooden hut.” It’s been widely purported that Khrushchev memorized all four Gospels during his childhood, and once, during a speech in France in 1960, he even claimed to have been a “model pupil” in religion.
But his religious upbringing seemed to have very little effect on his life.
During the murderous “show trials” of his predecessor Stalin which were held between World War I and World War II, Khrushchev gave his unyielding support to political bloodshed. Khrushchev regularly met his “arrest quotas” in the provinces under his leadership and personally signed the death sentence for thousands of Russians, many of whom had been his personal friends.
Further, Khrushchev prided himself on the scorn he had for religious matters. After rising to total power, he eventually proved a fiercer scourge on Christianity than even Stalin. Under his leadership, a large percentage of churches were closed in the USSR.
In the end, it mattered not that Khrushchev had been a “model pupil,” or that he had large portions of the Bible memorized. He died a militant atheist, never allowing the Word of God to truly affect his life.
2,000 years ago, Jesus taught an important message over and again: life must be lived according to God’s Word. For example, in John 8:31-32, we’re told:
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Unfortunately for thousands upon thousands of wrecked souls, the tyranny and brokenness of Nikita Khrushchev’s life illustrates the important difference between “knowing the truth,” and merely “knowing of the truth.”
Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman. Norton and Company, 2003, Pages 27-28.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)