Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided.
Yet time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely unchristian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect a righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up undividedly to a righteous cause?
The last line sent a shiver down my spine, to think that one of the greatest crimes in human history, the Holocaust, happened because people wanted to survive, ride it out, like all others. They expected righteousness to prevail but at someone else’s expense. How sad, tragic and awful it is to see the ugliest side of humanity when it is at its worst.
When I read those lines, years ago, I felt overwhelmed by the brutal honesty of her words which still to this day makes me think how I should live my life. The idea haunts me. I have stopped praying for some time now (a long time I suppose) for God to feed the hungry and provide welfare for the poor. I do not pray for peace for mankind, I do not pray anymore for sickness and famine to be removed from the world. I do not pray that earthquakes be averted or storms do not occur. Instead I am trying to live the way we are expected to live. Far from good or perfect myself, I am repelled by prayers, people do at their dinner tables each evening that God may feed the poor and the needy as He has fed them, and often at times, sitting at that table and looking at the lavishness which money has afforded these folks, I do wonder if they have ever gone out to the end of their street to the orphan or to the beggar, and have fed them? I can honestly say, out of the thousands of Christians I have seen, I can not count heads more than I have fingers on my hands, people who actually live and care about the things they pray for.
We expect righteousness to prevail but we are not to going to give up anything for it. We want to see good but we can not be bothered by the burden of responsibility. Let some one else do it and then we can clap our hands and be teary eyed, write checks and send money, not because we care or lose sleep over it but because we have much excess of wealth that we are giving out of our generosity, and yet when the time comes when righteousness demands pious action we will stand at the side lines because we are either too young or inexperienced, too weak and sensitive or too busy or lazy that we can not stand up for what is right. And that will be our excuse, live small, die small and let others do the work for humanity, we are better off living on the fence, staring at the ugly picture.
Sophie Scholl was 22 when she was accused of defying Nazi Germany and Hitler, was arrested, convicted and four days later executed by guillotine. Yet she stood up for what she believed and never retreated. How does a 22 year old decide to die for a noble cause for which she has no threat or fear of against herself or her family? This baffles me, dumbfounds me and perhaps even at times makes me see how easy we are with the comforts of our life and while we do sympathize with people who are doing less than us, we are not at ease at all to take any action on their behalf. She lived a small life, yet her life is a life, I am most assured in myself, worth living for every minute. Why? because it had a purpose, it showed the beauty and the strength of the human spirit and it showed that the right action demands courage, that a clear conscience is worth having even if it leads to your death and that courage means to realize that there are cruel things which are greater than our fears and sensitivities.
And as soon as I have this feeling I also feel the tremendous power of comfort and ease in my life, all the good things I never want to part away with, of the idea that somethings even though they are wrong and appalling in their nature, do not concern me and so any action on my part is not needed. And this feeling is very tempting. It triggers all of my intellectual reasoning and tells me that the idea of being involved in something which does not concern me, is foolish and idiotic. It serves no purpose to me. Yet in my heart, I yearn to do what is right but I am only good at being ambitious, when it comes to walk the talk, I am afraid I usually fall behind. And all of sudden, I feel, small, incapable, non-influential, simple, ordinary, average, just alike all others around me, making ends meet with difficulty, someone who can not make a difference, someone not obliged at all because of my circumstances; and yet does any of it excuses me from the truth. Sadly, no. Have you ever felt the same?
We are directly or indirectly always told to be good when we could “afford it”, we do things or we do not do them based on how convenient it is for us to act. This reminds me of some wise words, we are responsible for everything we do, and everything we did not do.
It could not be any more true, for me at least.
Righteousness is given to us for free but righteous action on behalf of those who can not defend or help themselves, has a cost. And most of the time we are found wanting, for we are not prepared to give something up, for others, for free, expecting nothing in return. Hard thing, isn’t it? Yet, right under a tyrant’s rule, when the scientists, philosophers, intellectuals, noble minds, Christians and those who knew what was wrong and right were all nodding and shaking hands with Hitler, silenced by fear or the promise of power, a young German Christian girl had the courage to stand up and give her life for a cause, even when it profited her not in any way. That truly is awe inspiring, beautiful and the mystifying quality of a righteous conscience.
So the next time, you want to end hunger because you feel sad for hungry poor people, stop praying on your dinner, get up, go down the road and buy someone food. Do not pray for orphans to be taken in, go out and bring one in your home, do not pray for the poor to be clothed, go out and get someone the clothes and shoes they need.
Am I asking you to not pray? To do something spectacular or great or grand, change the course of nations, be courageous, brave or have tremendous valor that you can oppose the masses? No, I am asking you to ACTUALLY care about the things you pray for or else you are just throwing words in the air. That prayer is useless because it is not true. Be honest and realize that one day we will be asked to account for things we could have done but we didn’t and that our action at the right time could have changed a life or on the most rare occasion, perhaps history itself.
Christ willingly paid our price, are we willing to pay the price for others?
I leave you with Sophie’s question which is still on my mind:
How can we expect a righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up undividedly to a righteous cause?