A Society Minus God
I have often thought that Christians probably make the best citizens due to their realization that in being submissive to the laws of the land, they are not only obeying a secular government, but also rendering obedience to a much higher authority -- and that being to God Himself. For it is He who, in speaking of earthly powers, commands us to "be in subjection to the governing authorities" and "whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God..." (Rom. 13:1-7). Submission, therefore, is to be rendered -- providing that particular law does not conflict with the law of the Lord (Acts 5:27-29) -- and, by so doing, the true believer can show his love for God (John 14:15,21; 15:10; 1 John 5:3).
In the book, The Pianist, an autobiography of Wladyslaw Szpilman, is an account of a man who amazingly survived the German occupation of Warsaw from 1939 to 1945, as he endured the eviction of his family from their home to the walled-in Jewish ghetto; to later be bereft of his family, friends, and neighbors when they were shipped like cattle to the slaughter house; to see his beloved city gradually crumble to almost total ruin; to hungrily exist for days without food and have his very life precariously hanging on a thin, fragile strand, as he hid among the ruins in what must have seemed like an endlessly gnawing solitude.
The story poignantly portrays one of the world's most horrific and exceedingly inhumane times when Whim, Brutality, and Lack of Conscience formed an alliance and appear to have taken possession of those in whom they resided. Jews were often shot indiscriminately on sight and left to decompose in the streets, on the sidewalks, or thrown upon a pile of other innocent victims to be consumed in the flames. The ghetto population in Warsaw of 360,000 Jews had reached a total of about 500,000, due to importation; but out of that half-million people, only a small percent survived -- due to starvation, sickness (such as typhoid, typhus, and TB), the harsh cold, and deportation (to the death camps).
These atrocities make us wonder how man could have so unconscionably inflicted such suffering on his fellow man. Where was the sensitivity, the compassion, the respect for human life?
In view of these inhumanities, it is easy for one to irrationally blame the entire German population for such monstrously shocking actions, as in the heartless extermination of even women and children. But, in truth, not even all the German officers were in league with Hitler -- many of these, even making various assassination attempts on him, and certainly having no desire, whatsoever, to be one of his henchmen. For they were well-aware of his evil ways and saw that it needed to be swiftly brought to an end. Even prior to his coming to power, "The majority of the German people and the leading politicians did not want Hitler to become chancellor. They understood that he would make himself dictator and set up a reign of terror" (World Book 2003). From 1938 to 1945, seventeen assassination attempts were made on him.
Included in Szpilman's autobiography are extracts from the diary of Captain Wilm Hosenfield, a German officer who had actually discovered Szpilman in his hiding place, near the end of the German occupation. However, rather, than turning him in or killing him on the spot, Hosenfield brought him some food on different occasions, kept Szpilman's hiding place a secret -- and even found him a better place to conceal himself. Hosenfield also gave him a warm eiderdown, along with a German military overcoat, to better withstand the cold. The captain was a caring man who was not only opposed to Hitler, but one who also had sought to save the lives of many Jewish people and was successful in doing so. When responding to Szpilman's question as to whether he was German, Hosenfield declared, "Yes, I am! And ashamed of it, after everything that's been happening" (The Pianist, p. 179). Writing in his diary for April 17, 1942, he makes mention of a couple torturous means that were used upon the Jews and wonders about those who execute such: "What other diabolical things have they devised? How many totally innocent people are held in their prisons?" (ibid., pp. 195,196).
His following explanation for why these atrocities occurred shows the need he saw for God in people's lives; and where there is a void of that, evil will prevail and trouble will come. Hosenfield writes of National Socialism in Germany that, at that time, "...forbids people to practice their religion, the young are brought up godless, the Church is opposed and its property appropriated, anyone who thinks differently is terrorized, the free human nature of the German people is debased and they are turned into terrified slaves. The truth is kept from them...There are no commandments now against stealing, killing or lying, not if they go against people's personal interest. This denial of God's commandments leads to all the other immoral manifestations of greed -- unjust self-enrichment, hatred, deceit, sexual license resulting in...the downfall of the German people... Why did the first race of men come to such a tragic end? Because they had abandoned God..." (ibid., pp. 200, 201).
Consider these individuals whom Paul speaks of in Romans 3 who do not seek for God and have become "useless" (vv. 11,12): "Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving," and "the poison of asps is under their lips" (v. 13). They are given to "cursing" and "bitterness" (v. 14). They are "swift to shed blood" (v. 15), "destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known" (vv. 16,17).
Though we wouldn't say that if one is not a Christian, he will be given over to all the above mentioned sins; yet in verse 18, note what Paul seems to be summing up as to why these people were guilty of these iniquities: "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
We live in a period when Jesus is not merely, as one child stated, "God's only forgotten Son"; but, rather, One who is often thought of with ridicule and mockery. For to treat His word that way is to treat Him the same, and this often happens in our time. The New Testament's teaching on morals, virtue, and righteousness is carelessly disregarded, belittled, or adamantly opposed, while the way of sin is lovingly embraced and glorified. And is this not worse today than 20 years ago? than 40 years ago? Etc.? Where is the world heading?
Though it will often serve as somewhat of a deterrent, still, some men need more than the law of the land to keep them in check. But what could give these individuals the highest motivation to be law-abiding? Is it not when out of a love for God, the individual is able to see his role as a good citizen as being part of his service to the Lord and a way of showing love, dedication, and appreciation to his Creator? What greater incentive could there be than that?
I don't understand the rationale of those who would think that true "Christianity" is a problem in our society -- as if every branch of its truth needs to be eradicated from the minds and hearts of people to make a better nation. Some atheistic thinkers seem to be on just that kind of "mission" -- to blatantly stomp out the teaching of God's holy precepts. Their actions often remind me of a statement I heard years ago: "If they don't believe in God, why do they hate Him so much?" While rejecting the word of the Lord, some of these people try to justify practices that God's word has been condemning for hundreds of years, and He will continue to do so until time is no more. How can anything in opposition to the Lord be viewed as a "better" alternative?
It often makes me wonder about what specific commandments of God are they wanting the Christian to give up: the one about loving his neighbor? ...not to steal? ...not to murder? ...not to be vengeful? ...being merciful and forgiving? ...loving your enemy and praying for those who would do you wrong? ...obeying the laws of the land? ...thinking of others as being more important than self? ...being charitable toward the less fortunate? ...striving to control our tongues and our temper? ...speaking truth with one another? ...owing no man anything? ...striving to be a peacemaker? ...husbands loving their wives, and wives loving and respecting their husbands? ...parents loving their children? ...children loving and obeying their parents? ...being sacrificial rather than selfish? ...and on and on. Which of these, or any other commandment in the New Testament, do some people feel that we should give up to make our nation "better"?
This is not to say that there are no atheists who are benevolent, kind-hearted, loving, etc.; nor is it to say that only true Christians would be law-abiding citizens; but if you had a choice of living in a state of 5 million people that was exclusively for true Christians, or living in a state of that number that was exclusively for non-Christians (and where the Bible was not allowed), which would you prefer? I would feel sorry for those people whom we might refer to as "good," "moral," and even "religious-minded"; but, because they are non-Christians, they would have to dwell with those who are still given to murder, rape, thievery, hatred, bitterness, lying, etc.
Of course, there is coming a time when there will be a similar separation; but on a much grander scale (cf. Matt. 25:32,33,46; Rev. 21:27). The apostle John states, "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying" (Rev. 22:14,15).
We are reminded that in the days of Lot, had there been just 10 righteous people dwelling in Sodom and Gomorrah, those places would have been spared by God for the sake of those few righteous. But, alas, not even that small number had dwelt there; and the cities were destroyed. Solomon writes that "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov. 14:34); and we can infer that a void of righteousness, therefore, can bring a nation low -- and even to its destruction, which the Old Testament abounds in examples of.
It appears that Sodom and Gomorrah was an area that, for the most part, did not want the principles of the Lord to govern their ways. Instead, they followed a course that was in direct opposition to God by choosing the way of death over the way of life.
This is sad because a society will never reach its full potential -- and what God wants it to be -- without the Lord in our lives. Hitler thought that a superior people was determined by being of a particular race, but what makes a people "pure" is not merely their lineage. For regardless of whatever the race, the transgressor still needs to be "born again" (Jn. 3:3-5) to become a part of the one family of God. As John the Baptist told the people of his day, "Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham" (Luke 3:8).
We can choose to deceptively believe that our universe is just the result of some astronomical chance, in which matter burst out of nowhere as a leaping, chaotic mass that eventually fashioned itself into an orderly and well-balanced system, and one with just the right properties to sustain life on earth -- which was extremely "lucky" for us; that human life is no different from animal life and that all life is just another mind-boggling outcome from unthinking matter. We can pretend that our eyes and ears, our hearts and lungs, our feet and legs, our brain and nervous system, and every other integral part that makes up our anatomy, just all so happened to form in not only the right way, but also in the right places (without any intelligent designer behind it). We can pretend that an eternity to be accounted for, prior to the beginning of the universe, is just a figment of the mind; that an entire universe can make itself from nothing; that man has no Creator; that there is no God; that there is no being more intelligent than man; that there really is no purpose for our existence, but what we make of it. That all, therefore -- of what is right or ethical -- hinges upon only man and his own arbitrary standards, the most recent values of his choosing. But when we have come to the close of our life on earth, what then? Our delusion will be over. If we had somehow managed to deceive ourselves into thinking these things were so, we will be in for an alarming surprise when we pass on from this life -- and will be able to delude ourselves no more. Then, in view of all the evidence of God's reality -- while we lived -- we will guiltily realize the truth (when it is too late) of David's statement that "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'..." (Psa. 14:1).
And what has man really accomplished if he has only pleased himself for his "little" while on earth, having lived according to only his own standards and rejecting that of His Creator's? Solomon has a phrase for that: It is "vanity and striving after wind" (Eccl. 1:14), "futility" (2:17).
What value will our lives have in eternity if we have rejected Jesus Christ? Will the memory of all the "good" things we did and enjoyed on earth be able to sustain us forever? Is not this the point that Solomon is making? That no matter what we do or experience on earth, all is vanity or of no profit, if we do not have God in our lives, to develop a relationship with Him now that will continue throughout eternity.
From the wise words of Solomon, we can infer that man's anthropocentric view of the world will only blind him from seeing his real purpose in life and the path on which he should walk. For regardless of how wise man thinks he is, "...the world through its wisdom did not come to know God..." (1 Cor. 1:21); and, as Jeremiah also realized, "...it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps" (Jer. 10:23).
Therefore, man must go "outside of himself" to find the true path; and this he does by looking to the Scriptures and allowing that teaching to guide and transform him.
For after seeing and considering all that this world has to offer for man's fulfillment, the conclusion is that he still needs to "fear God and keep His commandments," for this is "the whole duty of man"; and it applies to every accountable person (Eccl. 12:13) -- or as the Contemporary English Version renders that last part: "This is what life is all about."
Rather than having a society minus God, imagine one that radiates His love, His patience, His peace, the fruit of His Spirit, as each individual allows the Lord to work within him through personal cooperation (cf. Phil. 2:12,13). If this be the case, then a good society will be the result -- or the bi-product -- of those who simply love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. Is that impossible? If so, why would the Lord ever have given us His word that teaches how to do these things?! Let us, therefore, each strive to put God first in our lives; and we will then be able to change the equation from "a society MINUS God" to "a society PLUS God." And isn't that the kind of world you would like to live in?
By Tom Edwards
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