How Christians fall short
It matters not what we think we believe or what we say we believe. What matters is what we do. What we do or refuse to do says what we truly believe. Sometimes our lack of action or our overzealousness tells the world what we really believe.
There are times we are simply ignorant, and other times we refuse to learn. Sometimes we have no idea what is going on, and other times we know, but choose to turn our heads. When we refuse to acknowledge that we have much to learn, or when we deliberately turn our heads, those are the times we as Christians fall short.
Two Sides of the Ocean
World War II was about a prejudice and hate toward the Jewish people. Adolf Hitler wanted to annihilate everyone of Jewish descent. He wanted to have the perfect race which did not include any Jewish blood. There were Christian people who helped Jews escape to safety; some hid them in their homes and took care of their property while they were gone. Yet others ignored the problem and refused to speak out because they were afraid.
At the same time, on the other side of the ocean, a battle for supremacy among white people was waged against people of color. Many Christians bought into this logic even though Scripture declares we are all made in the image of God and the ground is level at the Cross of Jesus Christ.
No matter which side of the ocean we are on, there is spiritual warfare. When we give in to untruths, Christians fall short of God’s plan for them.
World War II and the holocaust
Penny Lee, a pro-life activist, met a man from the WWII era. He shared a story with her. Now an old man, he still remembered what his church did in a country church somewhere in Germany. His people heard about the atrocities happening not far from them in Auschwitz, but it was too difficult to comprehend. Besides, what could they do about it?!
A train track ran behind their church, and week after week they heard the whistle and clacking of the train wheels as it passed. The windows of the church were open to bring in fresh air from the stifling heat, and they grew accustomed to the sound of the train. Then, one morning, they heard noise coming from the train. The church folks were shocked when they realized there were people in those box cars, wailing and moaning. These people were being taken to their death and the Christians in the church fell short.
Week after week that train whistle blew and the sound of Jews crying out was heard as the train passed by the church. It was so disturbing that they devised a plan. They changed the order of their service so the song service took place at the time the train came by. Singing as loudly as they could, they tried to drown out the cries. If perchance the cries became louder, the congregation just sang louder to drown out the cries.
He said,” I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive me! God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.”1
Racism and the Civil Rights Era
John M. Perkins tells his story in the book Let Justice Roll Down. If you have not read this book, you should. It took me a long time to read through this book. Sometimes I had to set it aside for a while because reading the horror of white people’s hate punched my gut so hard I could not keep reading. Perkins reckons with prejudice on both side of the tracks. While many of us had nothing to do with the racial attacks in the south, and some of us were not even born during that time, the fact remains that forgiveness does not come without repentance. Refusing to acknowledge the atrocities that happened then (and some which continue today) is hiding our face in the sand and denying that we must acknowledge that in these times, Christians fall short.
Mr. Perkins tells the story of one time he was “beaten severely by Sheriff Edwards and Sheriff Edwards’ son and two Highway Patrolmen I didn’t know the names of . . . “2
He said, “They were like savages – like some horror out of the night. And I can’t forget their faces, so twisted with hate . . . I couldn’t hate back. When I saw what hate had done to them, I couldn’t hate back. I could only pity them.”3
No one doing the beatings, he said, was ever punished. There was no vindication, no justice.4
Not one person who speaks out
What Mr. Perkins says about Christians in the south saddens me. He recognizes that many white people helped with Freedom Marches. Some of them came from states north of the Mason Dixon line. Some lost their lives and some were beaten mercilessly along with the black people for whom they were marching.
Yet, Mr. Perkins says this: “I had lived in the South. I had drunk at separate drinking fountains. I had ridden in the back of buses. And never in the South had I heard one white Christian speak out against the way whites treated blacks as second-class citizens.“5
Mr. Perkins got around. Yet he never heard one white person speak out. I am dropping my head in shame.
When Christians fall short
We fail, as Christians, when we believe the lies of our enemy. Instead of researching what the Word tells us, we listen to others. We get caught up in emotions and events without taking time to consider what God has to say. We allow those emotions to rule us, dictating our actions, our words, and our prejudices. That is when Christians fall short.
Today, there are other issues we face. The temptation to remain silent is always present. The thought of just singing louder to drown the cries enters our heads. It matters not what we think we believe or what we say we believe. What matters is what we do and how we live.
When we know there is a wrong, we must speak for the cause of Christ. When we fail to speak or sing loudly to cover up the noise, we fall short. God forbid we are like the white Christians in the south where John Perkins lived, who today never once speak out against wrong.
2 John M. Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down, Regal Books, 1976, p. 156
3 Ibid. p. 158
4 Ibid. p. 185
5 Ibid. p. 156