I just finished reading (for the second time) the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during the time of Hitler and World War II. As the Nazis came to power and took control of the church, he faced a real dilemma. He could not continue to stand with the church hierarchy who supported Hitler’s regime yet he found it hard to speak out against the church. Along with several other pastors and theologians he founded what was called the Confessing Church.
A group called the German Christians (Deutsche Christen) created a pro-Nazi Reich Church. They wanted the church to conform to Nazi ideology. In opposition to this, many Christians formed the Confessing Church taking a clear stand against Hitler and his agenda.
However, in time Bonhoeffer became discouraged by the Confessing Church because although they opposed the Nazi regime they said nothing about the persecution of the Jewish people.
As the evil of Nazism became clearer Bonhoeffer faced a difficult decision.
Should he just look the other way as many German Christians were doing?
He had already spoken out against Hitler and his government. Should he do more?
He knew many of those who were conspiring to kill Hitler and free Germany from the nightmare that was afflicting the nation. Should he join them in their effort?
What does a Christian do when faced with such evil?
Bonhoeffer, after much soul-searching, joined the effort to get rid of the monster in charge of their country. For that decision he paid with his life.
He was originally charged with conspiring to rescue Jews and using his foreign travels as a pastor to share the situation in Germany with other countries hoping for help in staging a coup. His connection to the broader resistance movement was uncovered after a failed July 20, 1944 coup.
He was taken to the Gestapo prison in Berlin and later moved to the Flossenburg concentration camp where he was hanged April 9, 1945 just weeks before the Germans surrendered to Allied forces.
As I look at the divisions in our country – liberal vs conservative, Democrats vs Republicans, pro gun control vs anti-gun control and the list goes on and on, I wonder what a Christian should do.
Please understand I am NOT suggesting that anyone is like Hitler (don’t you go there) or that our country is like Germany in World War II.
But I do wonder how much Christians should get involved in the political debate. I remember that famous quote which has been attributed to Edmund Burke (although there is debate on who really said it first):
The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Do we remain silent when we see bad laws enacted and evil triumphing?
Yet I look at Jesus and his disciples. They lived under a dictatorship that was evil. Their fellow Jews were taxed heavily by their oppressor. Even their worship was controlled in many ways by the Romans. The Roman ruler, Pilate, kept the garments the High Priest needed to wear on the Day of Atonement. Each year they had to wait for him to surrender them to the priests so they could perform that sacred sacrifice.
Not one time did Jesus or his followers address that issue. They were focused on sharing the good news that Jesus had died and rose again for their eternal salvation.
The Apostle Paul even wrote that we should obey those in authority and that God had placed them there.
On the other hand we see throughout the Bible when people disobeyed the laws that were in conflict with God’s commandments.
- Rahab hid the Jewish spies that came to her in Jericho.
- Daniel continued to pray to God when the king ruled no prayers were to be said to anyone but him.
- The three Hebrew children refused to bow down to the statute and were thrown into the fiery furnace
- When told by the Jewish rulers not to speak about Jesus, the disciples said:
Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.
In my own time I think of Martin Luther King Jr who lead the non-violent civil rights protests that led to the end of Jim Crow rules that had been in place since the Civil War.
As I see and hear all the debates in our country today on so many issues: the wall, gun control, abortion I cannot help but think of that over used phrase from a few years ago:
What would Jesus do?
Wish I had the answer but I also wish that Christians would really think.
- What issues are worth fighting for because they are evil and against God’s Word?
- What issues are worth fighting for because we personally believe in them? Because we believe we have a “right” to certain things?
- What is our basis for our beliefs – the Bible or the Constitution?
- Are any “rights” worth fighting for to the point that they become our battle cry instead of the cry for people to know Jesus?
- Are we Christians first ready to die for the cause of Christ – or Americans first ready to die for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
- Where in the Bible did Jesus said he came so that we could have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
I still struggle with these issues. My prayer is that the church will take a stand against real evil, but also be willing to let their time and energy (and Facebook comments) promote the cause of Jesus Christ over their desire for their rights. I have angered friends – and some have even unfriended me on Facebook – but I will continue to say we must not become so obsessed with our “rights” that we forget our mission is to love the world and share the message of Jesus Christ.