Some Things Best Remembered
Pro-life activist, Penny Lea, recounts the following story told to her by an old weeping man:
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?
A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!
Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.
Their screams tormented us . . . If some of their screams reached our ears we’d just sing a little louder.”
So History May Not Be Repeated
I found this story on Repentamerica.com which is a website devoted to pro-life activism. The moral of the story is that there is a holocaust going on in America today. Some believe the holocaust is the death of millions of babies through abortion. The story hit a few different heart strings with me, however. Dictionary.com defines holocaust as “a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire.
A Long Black Train
Picture with me the train from the story the old man told. It’s not a happy train. Lyrics from a popular country song spring to my mind. Josh Turner recorded a song in 2003 called “Long Black Train”. With lyrics like “there’s a long black train comin down the line feedin’ off the souls that are lost and cryin’, rails of sin, only evil remains” he describes a train cutting a path to damnation. The train in the song and the train in the old man’s story has one destination. The tracks guide it in only that direction and there are no stops along the way. The Jews in the story are the sinners crying for help, and the Christians in the church are just that–they are the Christians in our churches singing at the top of their lungs to praise God–or perhaps to drown out the cry of the sinners.
Let’s Make it Personal
You’re vacationing at an RV park. Surrounding you are families of all types, and beyond them is a cliff that overlooks a valley. You look up and see your children inside your SUV rolling toward the cliff, picking up speed, and their screams reach your ears. You immediately drop everything and run to them. It doesn’t matter what happens to you, you fling yourself in front of them and stop the truck–except you never walk again. This very thing happened to a mother in 1999, and you can find her story here. But consider this alteration: you are at the RV park, and you hear the screams coming from someone else’s SUV. Someone else’s kids are rolling toward the cliff and picking up speed. What do you do then?
The Fast Track
In John 8:2-11 we are told the story of a woman believed to be Mary Magdalene, who later becomes a big part of Christ’s ministry on earth. Regardless of her identity, though, we can say for certain she was in trouble. She was on the path of sin, and the Pharisees put her on the “fast track”. Instead of pointing out her sins to her personally, and leading her away from the darkness she would be facing if she continued, they pointed her out to Christ. They hoped He would finish the job–push her over the edge into the pit, save His ministry for those less sinful perhaps. Instead, Christ took her by the hand and guided her in the right direction. He also did the same for those accusing her! He held up one big mirror in their face (wrote their sins in the dirt), and they immediately saw where their path was headed. Jesus didn’t broadcast their sins, or hers. He only gently led them.
If the Pharisees had approached the woman’s sinful behavior in a loving reproof, they may have been responsible for guiding her back to salvation. Instead, they could have been accountable for her damnation.
Is It Our Job to ‘Reproof’?
Micah says yes. In Micah 3:8 he declares he is full of power to “declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin”. Micah has this power because he is directed by the Spirit of the Lord.
Other scriptures say yes as well. Psalm 19:7-11 describes that there are rewards for following the law of God and that it can be used for “warning the servants”. 2 Timothy 3:16 is more specific, using words such as “reproof”, “correction”, and “instruction”.
Not only have I found in my studies that it is indeed our job to reprove the sinful behavior of our neighbors, but that we can be held accountable if we don’t.
Leviticus 19:17 says we can bear sin because of our neighbor. 1 Samuel 2:12-17 says that Eli’s sons were corrupt and their sin was “great before the Lord”. Verses 22-25 describe Eli’s distress at his sons’ sings affecting his ministry and how they “make the Lord’s people transgress”. Finally in chapter 3, verses 11-14 we can read God’s proclamation against Eli’s house because of his son’s sinning that he did not “restrain”. As a parent this really resonates with me.
Were you aware that our household can be judged by the sins of one of its members? I was not.
Is It Our Job to Pray?
Not only can we be held accountable for th sins of others, but we can be held accountable for not praying for them! In 1 Samuel 12:23 Samuel tells Israel, ‘Yes I will pray for you to ensure I’m not sinning by not praying for you’ (paraphrased). That’s heavy.
How often do we pray for someone who is sinning? I know that my mom does. I think I’ve changed a lot of my behavior because she was praying for me and God worked on my behalf. This doesn’t seem to be our first instinct though. When someone hurts me, it’s not my first thought to pray for them, but I’m learning that it should be.
The very human question to come is: what’s in it for me?
The good news about all this is that, like many things God asks us to do, we get blessings in return. Proverbs 24:23-25 says good blessings will come to those who rebuke the wicked.
So, we know we should do it. We know we get blessings for doing it. Then, how do we do it?
Look for my upcoming blog, “Sing a Little Louder: Part 2”, to study further.
Photo courtesy of Amy Purvis Paskell