Monday, April 25, 2005

 

A Sad Memorial, A Sad Anniversary . . .

Recently we remembered a sad page in the history of humanity, we recalled the liberation of the prison camp Dachau among others from the nightmare of Nazi oppression and thuggery. Annually I try to remind myself of the depth of depravity to which humanity can slip, even humanity that justifies its inhumanity and brutality by science. The Nazis showed the dark beastial side of humanity, the side we all have to some degree (although most of us will never admit it). The Nazis were more than thugs or brutes or even barbarians, they were humans that (in C. S. Lewis' words from The Abolition of Man) were humans without magnanimity, "men without chests." Here are Lewis' own words about such people:

"They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed, it would be strange if they were: a perservering devotion to truth, a nice of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of sentiment . . . It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so." (C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p. 25).

These Germans were not less human than the rest of us, they just acted as people without that emotion that makes our "better angels" show up instead of the "brutes" in each of us. They became the "elites" who judged other races in humanity as mere brutish nature to be studied. They were Social Darwinists who wanted to keep their race pure, and who ultimately participated in that which Lewis deems "the abolition of man." They were people like us. In many ways we hate to admit, they were us. As one survivor records the event of his liberation:

"The full record of the pseudo-medical experimentations came to light. Prisoners had been used as laboratory animals, without the humane restrictions placed on vivisection. Hannah Arendt suggested that `the camp was itself a vast laboratory in which the Nazis proved that there is no limit to human depravity.' For it was remembered that these experiments were not planned or conducted by identifiable psychopaths. They were performed or supervised by professional scientists, trained in what had been once considered peerless universities and medical schools. Reverend Franklin Littell called them `technically competent barbarians.' Indeed the procedures had the full approval and cooperation of Berlin's Institute of Hygiene." (Sachar, Abram L. The Redemption of the Unwanted. New York: St. Martin's/Marek, 1983, pp. 8-10)

Let us remember with sadness the number of innocents lost and the reality of our own potentially brutish nature. Let us not forget that without grace, we are all irredeemably lost. Could Dachau happen again? Only if humans let it, only if we deny once again our own humanity and treat our fellow humans as mere animals. Yes, it can happen again. Let's pray that it doesn't. Let's make sure it doesn't.

This topic is heavy and sad. I don't apologize for that, but I do want to put the weight down now. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

Finding a place . . .

“I’m stuck in this place.” How many times have I said that when I find myself somewhere I’d rather not be? Maybe it was a job I didn’t particularly enjoy, or a meeting that bored me to tears, or perhaps a relationship that wasn’t what I hoped. In all these ways, we often find ourselves “stuck” in a “place” that we don’t appreciate or even like. Do we ever stop to think that it is those sinkholes, those pits, those stuck places where God wants to meet us? Do we ever think that maybe, just maybe, like Job God has brought us to a place where we can focus on him?

I forget sometimes that the Bible speaks often of “place.” Jesus went out to a deserted place to be alone with his Father. Paul went to a desert place to learn about his new faith. Ezekiel speaks of the places where God met him. Isaiah was in the Temple, the place of God’s revelation, when king Uzziah died, and Isaiah saw a vision of God in that place. Abraham left his hometown to go to a “place” that God would show him. Even Satan wants to have a “place” since he lost his “place” in heaven (see Revelation 12). We all want a “place.” Like the old theme song to the TV show Cheers, we want a place “where everyone knows your name.” We want a place to belong, a place to be at peace, a place of rest.

There is such a place you know. We can even carry it with us every day of our lives. That place is Calvary. The place of the Skull and the place of the supreme sacrifice in history is where we can go to find what we want. There, safe from the world, we can shelter ourselves under the sweet sacrifice of Jesus, confident, as Paul tells us, that “He who freely gave his Son for us, will he not also freely give us all things?” It is a place of both sacrifice and safety, a place of grace and rest. Although it was not a positive place for Jesus on that day, it has become for us a place of comfort, kindness, grace, and even peace. There Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself. There God redeemed me as his own by giving his only Son in my place. Read and meditate on these words from Dennis Jernigan’s song “It was My Sin.”

1. See the God of Glory giving up His Son
See the awesome depth of love in all that He has done
See the tiny baby on the hay so still
See Him take the cross and climb up Calvary’s lonely hill
That hill

Chorus:
It was my sin that nailed him there
It was my cross He had to bear
It was His blood that washed me clean
It was the greatest love this world has seen
He died for me
He washed me clean
I am redeemed
Worship the King

2. Hear the groaning thunder, feel the falling rain
See the King of Glory bear unbearable pain
Dying brokenhearted, Himself He would not save
See the King who died for me now risen from the grave
My grave

Chorus:
It was my sin that nailed You there
It was my cross You had to bear
Your precious blood has washed me clean
No greater love has this world ever seen
You died for me
You washed me clean
I am redeemed
Worship the King

May God grant us the grace to live confidently in the places he has placed us. May we understand the height, width, breadth, and length of his love to us. May we find his place of rest.

Thanks for reading! I'm praying for you!

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