Sunday, October 24, 2010

They Played While Millions Died

Step out from behind your own bunker and view the earthly landscape in a wider perspective. Look upon the entire ongoing history and include everyone and everywhere. It becomes evident that lifting up our eyes upon the fields and seeing in context the entirety of humanity is impossible and is an experiment that is quite unpracticed in our neat little worlds. But it cannot be denied that humanity as a whole suffers greatly from all sorts of maladies; from disease to violence to oppression to poverty to hunger and the ravages of sin in general.

In May of 1944 two SS officers took pictures at the Auschwitz death camps and created a scrapbook of those pictures. After the war, this scrapbook was discovered in an abandoned apartment. The photos showed thousands of Jews arriving at Auschwitz and being divided into sections, one of which were murdered on that very day while the other went to work at the camp. Perhaps 5000 Jews died every day when the camp was at the height of its deathly efficiency.

But along with the documentation of the arriving victims were photographs of the camp’s officials, including the commandant, as well as the notorious Dr. Mengele. And there were these men, laughing and drinking and singing along with the accordion while the smell of burning bodies wafted all around them. Locked into their own world, they seemed oblivious to the horror that was being experienced by human beings within shouting distance, and seemed to be most unmoved by their complicity. Were in not for the infamous SS uniforms, the pictures would look like ordinary men having a picnic.

But these men were not transformed overnight, and they had not been transported from 1930 to 1944 in one day. No, these men were made into monsters by small increments and imperceptible moral shifts that chipped away at their sensibilities and hardened them against any human compassion or ethics. And they eventually were able to live their lives in a machine-like productivity without the inconvenience of any moral assessment. Millions died while thousands played.

Millions died while thousands played. And can you not see the indictment of those words as it applies to the western church? Of course we are not the architects of human suffering and the spiritual plight of the world, but do we not play while others are in great need? While we eat doughnuts Sudanese children drink water contaminated by animal urine, if they have any water at all. While we speak with great interest of sporting events the epidemic of malaria and AIDS plunders an entire continent. And while we build great debt-laden edifices in which to worship, complete with state of the art everything, billions are in need of the gospel. And armed with the knowledge of such a human crisis, both physically and spiritually, what would we look like in a scrapbook? As we are photographed eating and drinking and making merry, how could we justify such a lifestyle in the face of such colossal human suffering and darkness?

But we were not changed overnight either. It has taken many generations in order to slowly chip away at both our understanding of the New Testament and the nature of following in the footsteps of Jesus. Step by step we have incorporated the culture into our spiritual journeys until we have created an ecclesiastical cocoon that enjoys the Babylonian lifestyle while still professing to live in Jerusalem. And with the astounding conflict between the New Testament and our current lifestyles, we have, by necessity, become deaf and blind to the massive inconsistency between what Jesus taught and what we now live. If we did not become deaf and blind to that overt hypocrisy, we would either have to repent or admit that we were not believers at all.

Is it not true that all men die, and that all souls live eternally with God or separated from Him? And is it not true that with each passing day the time grows short? But as Vance Havner once remarked, “The situation is desperate, but we are not.” And the question remains, how can we escape the cultural quicksand we find ourselves in, if indeed we allow the Spirit to awaken our hearts to the seriousness of the situation? What Herculean effort would be needed to extricate ourselves from the powerful clutches of the western culture and mindset? I do not know, since I am in the battle and have not yet achieved the victory. But this I do know: It will take more than the efforts of man, and with that as the case, the only path is the path of prayer. If we desire revival it must begin with and be sustained with prayer.

But like King Ahab of old, we are inclined to hear good news and we abhor those who bring words of correction form the Lord. The Joel Osteens and the health and wealth preachers are those who gain great followings, but those who see the true spiritual condition of the church seem like ecclesiastical relics. But we can sleep tonight with this knowledge. It will not be long before all things are complete and Jesus returns, and while we play…millions die.

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