I am fascinated with the Holocaust. The fascination is two-fold: horrified with the propensity we have for cruelty and inspired at the propensity to be fully who God created us to be in the face of incredible suffering.
Recently, I watched a documentary on the seventieth anniversary of a mass escape from the Nazi concentration camp of Sobibor. Four of the survivors were interviewed as they made their way back to Poland for a celebration commemorating the event. It was a touching retelling of the happenings that led up to the escape. Each interviewee expressed deep emotion as the images emerged from the past. The escape was planned as a desperate attempt when the prisoners discovered the camp was scheduled for mass execution. Six hundred fled. Two hundred made it to the forests beyond the camp. Fifty escaped discovery and made it to freedom. It was the most successful escape from a death camp during that war. The survivors witnessed the torture and death of many of their family and friends. As a result, they lived their lives with the question of why they were spared along with gratitude for living.
I wish we, humanity, had learned our lesson at this time. I wish we could look back with fascination and relief that this had never happened again. Unfortunately, that is not so. One need simply look at the waves of people fleeing for their lives from Syria to see these horrors still exist. How is it that we, in such an advanced, intelligent time in history, live with this?
My language is intentional in its inclusiveness. I want to remember that these happenings are not isolated. I am a member of the human race and I impact others by what I do and do not do. It is easy to sit in my comfortable home and forget these atrocities. It is easy to feel momentary compassion and horror and then turn my attention to my busy life. Yet God does not forget. God loves these individuals–both victims and perpetrators. My birth into a wealthy first world family does not excuse me from responsibility. In fact with great blessing comes great responsibility. What can I do for these children of God?
Another reason for including myself in this responsibility is I want to remember that we all have the seeds within us both for great good and for great evil. I may not be repeating the horrific acts of the holocaust, but I am daily capable of harming others through my words and actions. I am also capable, when I am willing, of being used by God for great good in the lives of each person I encounter. I make choices with every encounter. Intentionality is required to love.
God, open the eyes of my heart to the potential I have for good and evil each day. Help me choose good, Lord. Help me choose.
Note: I wrote this reflection while flying across the country on Friday, November 13. I discovered that evening that at the same time, the terrible acts of violence were happening in Paris. Let us be wise in our response both as individuals and as nations. If I speak in the tongue of men and of angels, but have not love….
Grace and peace to you,