How A Holocaust Happens
Main Idea: Recognize Hatred For What It Is And The Destruction It Causes
Scene Setup: Rookie teacher Erin Gruwell is teaching Freshman English to an ethnically-diverse group of inner-city students. These hardened teens have had their lives shaped by gang warfare, broken homes and poverty. These battles have resulted in racial tension and despair for their futures. Erin is determined to get through to them, to help them discover truth, purpose and hope. Her efforts appear to be fruitless until one day…
Application: What is hate? This word gets bandied around by psychologists and songwriters, politicians and pundits, but our understanding of hate has become as skewed as our understanding of love. While we may love the color green, our favorite sports team, and our spouse, we know those are not the same love. And while we may hate that annoying commercial, terminal cancer, and the person who ruined our life, those are not the same either. So what, truly, is sinful hate and why does it lead to holocaust?
First, what hate is not. Taking a principled stand for truth is not hate. To call out certain actions as biblically wrong is actually a form of loving concern for those who are in danger of God’s justice, but it is important that such a stand for truth be done with grace and humility. Setting boundaries is not hate. There are people with whom it is not healthy or beneficial to associate, at least for a season. God does not expect us to give everyone everything that they want from us. Further, people have preferences as to how and with whom to spend their time and invest their energies and are free to make choices of one person over another–loving one person more is not hatred for others.
Well, what is hate? Despising how God created another and seeing his or her life as intrinsically less valuable than mine is hate. When we refuse to show another person respect and kindness because of how he or she was created (i.e. race or disability), that is hate. Often this is tied in with falsely blaming others for my problems or sins. The Nazis blamed the Jews for Germany’s problems, when in fact these problems were the result of many complex circumstances and a national lack of character. The students in Mrs. Gruwell’s class blamed other gangs or an entire other race for their difficulties without even knowing those that they thereby condemned as guilty.
Refusing to extend to another the grace and forgiveness that Christ has extended to me is hate. People are sinners, and they do sinful, evil things that will affect us directly or indirectly. Even if they are unrepentant in their sin, we are still to show grace and love just as Christ did, dying for us “while we were yet sinners” (see Romans 5:8). If another person’s sin has come directly against you or someone that you care about, showing grace and forgiveness will be a chance to cry out to God to change your own heart and make it more like His.
I John 4:19-21 (New American Standard Bible) If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.?
- John 8:44 (New American Standard Bible) You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.?
- Matthew 7:12 (New American Standard Bible) In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
“That’s how a Holocaust happens.” The students in Erin Gruwell’s class had never heard of the Holocaust, the slaughter of over six million Jews at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. (Hitler also committed genocide against several million others, including gypsies, homosexuals, mentally or physically disabled persons, and those who tried to oppose his regime.) Consider devoting a message (perhaps around Holocaust Remembrance Day) to delve into the historical, political, and moral reasons that this horrific atrocity happened. Many in your congregation may be somewhat unfamiliar with the causes that led to the Holocaust and the scope of its devastation. Consider ways that our culture today has devalued life, and highlight the lives of heroic Christians such as Corrie ten Boom or Dietrich Bonheoffer who model how a believer can “overcome evil with good.”?
- Stereotypes might make for good sitcom material, but they can also become building blocks for hatred and oppression. Do you find phrases in your vocabulary such as “(they) are all like that” or “I can’t stand how all (of them) are so__”? Such phrases indicate that you may be thinking of others as masses, not as individuals. Jesus saw people one at a time. His culture had strong stereotypes and prejudice against women and Samaritans; He struck up a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman and stayed to lead a revival at her village for three days (see John 4). The Gentiles were called “dogs” by the Jews–Jesus referenced this stereotype when testing the faith of a Gentile woman, and then He miraculously healed her daughter (see Matthew 15:21-28). As He interacted with disabled people, Jesus did not perform every healing the same. To some He offered forgiveness; to others He asked what they desired; and for some He simply healed them without them even requesting it (see Matthew 9:2; Luke 18:41; John 5:6-8). The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were considered to be the godly ones; Christ revealed their hypocrisy and godlessness (see Matthew 23). Over and over Jesus looked past a person’s “stereotype” to their heart and met with them accordingly. Ask God to help you see people as He sees them.