Day 5

Monday, February 22
Exodus 1-2

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

I’ve read different versions of this over the years, each time feeling its challenge. I came to realize that whether or not I personally resonated with the beliefs of the people in peril wasn’t the point. Instead, I needed to see that if one group of people could be targeted for persecution because of their ideals and beliefs, any other group also could be. My membership in a privileged class of people, particularly if the oppressors look like me and believe what I do, doesn’t protect me from being held responsible for brutality being done to others.

This is an unsettling thought, and I think it’s meant to be.

I didn’t know the source of the aforementioned lyric until recently, when I stumbled across the story of a German Christian named Martin Niemöller. Despite studying to become a Lutheran pastor after the 1st World War, the politically conservative Niemöller chose to become the battalion commander of the right-wing Freikorps, an organization that in time would form the core of a rising German political party called the Nazis.

Desiring a strong leader for the Germans, and because Hitler personally assured him he would not interfere with churches or harm to the Jews, Niemöller supported the Nazis publicly, hoping for Christian revival across Germany. Martin came to recognize the truth of what was happening, however, and when he openly opposed white Nazi supremacy, he and many other Christians were jailed and placed in concentration camps. After the war, Niemöller preached openly about his own guilt regarding complicity with the Nazi murders of millions, arguing that he and other Christians should have stood up for others and loved more boldly. Before his death in 1984, this former Nazi supporter had eventually become an internationally recognized peacemaker and advocate for the oppressed.

I hear Moses’ story in that of Niemöller. Although Moses was comfortably above needing to be bothered by the effects of Egypt enslaving the Jews, he came to understand just how much he shared with those being persecuted. He chose to stand up against those in power, eventually leading the Jewish people to freedom. Whether in ancient Egypt, Nazi Germany, or in our world today, God continues to be at work in the business of giving new sight, opening our eyes to the pain of other people. May we be willing to pray for awareness of those whom we are blind to, and may the Holy Spirit urge bold love for others to also grow strongly in us. Amen.

Reflection by Adam Baker

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