What Can I Do?
Today’s Text: 1 Peter 3:14, 16-17
YOM HASHOAH: Holocaust Remembrance Day
A few years ago after recapping the horrors of the Holocaust on a large church campus, I was approached by a woman. While other congregants lamented the atrocities perpetrated by Adolf Hilter’s Nazi Regime, her response visibly jolted the group around me. With a shoulder shrug, she blasted, “We knew what Hitler was doing. What could we do?”
That encounter still haunts me. What would cause someone in that environment to dismiss personal responsibility to intervene on behalf of the oppressed? Who could close eyes to the innocent Jewish victims? Why didn’t she think to rescue those relegated to unimaginable torment and death via Hitler’s henchmen?
It is one of the most horrific stains on the history of mankind. Men, women, boys and girls—ranging from young babies to the very aged who by virtue of their ethnic parentage—were sadistically herded into cattle cars and shuttled to Nazi death camps.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Underlying the woman’s comment, a latent attitude surfaces: It’s none of my business. Why should I care?
The late Elie Weisel, himself a Holocaust survivor dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, framed the argument:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
The apostle Peter presented the New Testament perspective that is equally proactive:
1 PETER 3:14, 16-17
“. . . if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled . . . having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
The immediate context of Peter’s message relates to giving an answer when people wonder why we profess the name of Christ. In a broader application, to be Christ-like in any situation requires not only being able to defend the faith, but a willingness to suffer for “doing good” (v.17).
WHAT CAN I DO?
The evil that drove the atrocities of the Holocaust remains uppermost in our thoughts as we commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is not for me to judge the lady who quipped, What could we do? Someday, every human being will account before Almighty God for deeds done in life. The righteous acts—of those who recognized the evil of the Third Reich and did something to save lives during that era—alone are condemnation.
There were individuals—lone souls and those who networked with others—who demonstrated bold courage in the face of evil. When Germany invaded Holland in 1940 and the Jewish population was ordered to wear the yellow Star of David, an underground newspaper immediately responded. Some 300,000 yellow stars were printed and distributed to the public who wore them in solidarity with the plight of the Jewish people.
History records that Dutch Christians helped hide 25,000 Jewish people. Not all were successful. Some were betrayed, but many Jewish lives were saved. These “righteous among the nations” weren’t bystanders. They acted on conviction. Their efforts countered the evil in prevailing culture. What they did to make a difference is still evident in the fact that there are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors alive today.
With anti-Semitism once again raising its ugly head worldwide, some are like the woman I encountered. The question for people of faith is not “What could we do?” after the fact. But, What can I do? in the moment.
Action is essential. Heroic efforts at the crisis point are imperative. Holocaust expert and historian Yehuda Bauer counsels any willing to listen:
“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
People of faith have a moral obligation to not just talk about the evil that affects those living in their ancient homeland of Israel and Jewish people worldwide, but resolve to act on behalf of God’s Chosen People.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken authentically communicates biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2018, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added).
1) The Buchenwald children were a group of approximately 1000 Jewish child survivors found by American troops when they liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945. The boys are dressed in outfits made from German uniforms due to a clothing shortage. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios.