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29 January 2008

A wonderful lightness and joy

In the second of his blog entries, Stephen Pacht recounts how he came to find Christianity

By Stephen Pacht

I remember telling a University friend that only a miracle could make me believe in God. That is what happened one day, thirty years ago. I had the most extraordinary spiritual experience of the presence of God.

I had arrived at University without ever having considered the question of God. My parents were from Vienna and had arrived in England either side of the War. God was never mentioned in the home. Perhaps the unspoken objection in my family was those of many Jewish people: why did God allow six million of us to be murdered?

My Jewish identity lay dormant, lit from time to time by programmes on the Holocaust, reminders of the grandparents I had never known. I was brought up with a strong sense of right and wrong, and of respect for both parents and others. But God was absent. So I was surprised to meet a Christian at university who told me that he knew God in a personal way. Belief in God sounded reasonable, but to claim a personal relationship seemed, at best, pretentious. But my curiosity had been aroused. I realised that I knew very little about Jesus, just snippets from well known stories: conjuring tricks involving bread and wine, walks on water and the occasional teaching on love that mirrored the Old Testament. And then his execution on a Roman cross. But quite frankly, it was of no significance to me.

Then slowly I came to understand what the story was about: Jesus claiming to be sent by God, to die for me, and then, incredibly, to come back to life. A willing sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin. I had always compared myself with others and considered myself rather good – in fact better than most. But slowly it dawned on me that it was to God that I was accountable to.

On the one hand I questioned his existence, on the other I asked him to show me the truth – to reveal himself. One day, to my own surprise, I was filled with a sense of the presence of God, a wonderful lightness and joy. An ability to praise God and a new found peace and love for others.

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