I began to wonder the other day what my role would have been if I had lived in an area of Nazi-controlled Europe as a Christian. Have you ever thought about that? Of course, most of us who have read The Hiding Place or heard about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, automatically think, "Well, of course I would be one of the ones helping the Jews to escape out of Europe!" But would we really?
I recently read The Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg (an excellent book, by the way...highly recommend it!), and this section jumped out at me. It's a conversation between a Jewish boy (Jacob) and a Christian pastor (Luc) who have both been caught and taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Jacob changed the subject. "You sound like a good Christian."
Luc shrugged. "I've tried to be."
Jacob stopped his work and looked Luc in the eyes. "Then what are you doing here?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean Abby says you've been rescuing Jews, giving them a place to stay, feeding them, putting their kids in your schools, giving the men jobs. What for? Why take such risks?"
"How could we not?" Luc asked. "My Savior tells me to love my neighbors. The Jews are my neighbors. It's not complicated."
"But you're a Gentile," Jacob said. "Look at you. You're blond-haired, blue-eyed. You could pass for an Aryan, for crying out loud. Why not just blend in? Why not pretend you're one of them, at least until the war is over?"
"Who, the Nazis? I could never be a Nazi."
"Because they hate the Jews," Luc said. "And I could never hate a Jew."
Luc stopped working, straightened up, and looked Jacob square in the eye. "Because, Jacob, my Savior was a Jew," he replied. "The Bible teaches me to love Jews. To bless the Jews. And anyway, if you ask me, the question shouldn't be 'Why are you, a Christian, here in a death camp, condemned for trying to save Jews?' The real question is 'Why aren't all the Christians here?'"
That last question is haunting, isn't it?
"The real question is 'Why aren't all the Christians here?'"
Because the truth is that all of them weren't. Some of them had bought into Nazi propaganda. Some of them even justified their lack of action because the Jews had persecuted the early Christians (an insane form of anti-Semitism in light of Romans 11!). And some of them had just blended in. Not really helping the Nazis or hurting the Jews...but not really stopping the Nazis or helping the Jews either. Just kept going about life in the middle of one of the greatest spiritual battles of modern times.
So again I ask: which would you be?
I began to think about how I would even have started helping. If they weren't targeting me to begin with, would I have gotten involved or would I have kept going about my daily life? I hear about atrocities in the news all the time, but I usually don't do anything about it. I don't feel like I can. Would I have felt that way about the concentration camps?
Then I thought, if a Jew came to my door specifically and asked for help, what would my response have been? That seems to be how several of the players in the Nazi Resistance got started. And what would make me say "Yes, I'll help, at the cost of my own personal safety." The only thing would be if Christ's commands were so ingrained in me that it was second nature.
After all, what separated the Christians who helped from the Christians who didn't? If Christianity is true and Jesus's teachings are true then like the Christian pastor in the death camp said, ALL Christians should have been in there! But they weren't. Not because they didn't have Bibles. Not because they hadn't heard the teachings of Jesus. But because it wasn't PART of them. It wasn't second nature to them. Just like it isn't to many of us.
2 Peter 1:4 says, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
That means that through the promises of God, we can develop a second nature that goes against our own human survival instinct and selfish nature. We can be partakers of a second nature. And that second nature is The Divine Nature. That's the only way we can escape the corruption of this world.
I began to pray after I had read that book, "God, I want what you say to be written in my heart, so ingrained, so part of me, that it's second nature." I want to act like Jesus. I want His Nature!
Whenever I'm around someone that's hurting, I want my second nature to kick in.
Whenever I'm around someone in need, I want my second nature to kick in.
Whenever I'm around something evil, I want my second nature to kick in.
When I'm going through daily, menial chores, I want my second nature to kick in.
When my family is driving me crazy and I want to lash out at them, I want my second nature to kick in.
If a Jew ever knocks on my door asking for help, I want my second nature to kick in.
What are the promises of God Peter is talking about? If the promises of God are the means by which we are partakers of the Divine Nature then I want to know what those promises are! I won't pretend to know exactly or limit Peter's words to certain promises. But there are a couple promises God makes in Scripture that apply here, I believe. Titus 1:2, for example, says we have hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began. So one of those promises has to do with salvation. And what happens at salvation? Let's look at another promise of God from the Old Testament.
Jeremiah 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
In other words, His laws become second nature to them.
That's part of what Peter was saying. By this great and precious promise of God of salvation, we become partakers of The Divine Nature, the very nature of God so that what HE wants becomes second nature to us. Natural to us, rather than what WE want.
I encourage you to read the rest of the chapter to get context, for the promises God gives us to be able to live this life by His Spirit. 2 Peter chapter 1 is so rich in depth with the practical instruction about how to live life with the character of God growing inside of us. Diligence is required on our part, make no mistake, but also make no mistake that it is only through the power of the Spirit that we accomplish it.
So I ask again: are God's laws written on your heart so that they are second nature to you? I ask myself this question over and over. I pray that God makes it so. And another of His promises remains true: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." That is the only way we will be able to develop this second nature.