By Pastor Dwight Sullivan
Recently I saw a TV program on the remembrance of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event which happened more than 50 years ago this month. It was one of the scariest times in human history.
Locked in a global struggle, the two superpowers of the USA and Communist Russia each had then a “Mutual Assured Destruction” stance. If one country tried to attack first with nuclear weapons, the other would unleash their arsenal to destroy that nation. Doomsday would happen.
In 1962 one of our spy planes spotted long-range missiles that the Russians had sneaked into Cuba. These missiles were capable of delivering nuclear bombs to the USA, including NYC and LA. The whole world grew tense. Our country declared a naval blockade and warned that any missile attack would be a declaration of war.
A Russian submarine secretly carrying a nuclear bomb torpedo was then trapped by the US Navy around Cuba. With a hot and clammy interior and with a loss of communication with Moscow, the submarine crew grew really on edge. When our Navy started dropping practice depth charges, the Russian sub did not understand that this was a signal for them to surface. Those on the sub wondered, “Had war started? Were they under attack?”
ONE MAN SAVED THE WORLD THEN
To activate the Russian nuclear bomb, three key officers had to agree unanimously. Stressed in the hot, cramped sub, the Russian captain wanted to nuke our ships. The political officer agreed. It was up to a third officer, Vasili Archopov. The submarine was unbearably hot, emotions were raw, nerves on edge and the crew seemed doomed. What if the war had started and they did nothing? Yet what if war had not started and they launched their weapon?
Vasili Archopov bravely said, “No.” He would not agree. He asked what if the depth charges around them meant (correctly) that the Americans wanted them to surface?
One man saved the whole world. Archopov made a huge moral choice not to launch. We owe our lives and our present civilization to this man, who was a Russian, a military officer, a Communist and probably an atheist. His actions said, “No, I will not take the chance of starting World War 3.”
BEFORE ALL THIS, ONE MAN REALLY SAVED THE WORLD
Amazing! But even more wondrous is that the Bible tells us that long ago, one man really saved the whole world. Christmas is a celebration of this one man’s appearance into our world. The Bible says on the night Jesus was born, an angel proclaimed, “I bring you great news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (1)
This one man came into a muddled, mixed up, murderous world that is entangled in conflict and rebellion to the true God. Jesus showed us the love of God in the midst of the darkness of our sin by his giving His life for us. On the cross our sins were forgiven. Because of this one man, we can have a new life “born from above.” God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (2)
We owe our hope of eternal life through faith in this one man, a Jew, and an unlettered religious person. On this day will you receive the greatest gift ever, the gift of eternal life through trusting and following Christ for yourself?
– Dwight Sullivan is pastor of Whittier Evangelical UMC, 10262 Colima Road, Whittier, CA 90603
(1) Luke 2:10 (2) Romans 5:8