Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Allen Gewalten zum trotz, sich erhalten.

Despite all the powers, maintain yourself.

A Noble Treason is the true story of Sophie Scholl and a small group of like-minded friends and family who protested the Nazi onslaught against decency inside Germany during WWII. It's an insightful look into what life was like for average German citizens in the 30's and 40's, as well as a warning and encouragement to us today. The quote above is from Goethe and was a well-known saying at that time. It means maintain yourself; remember who you are; steady on. Keep your character when all those around you do not. Stand against the flow. Christians could add, cling to and focus on Jesus, to avoid being overwhelmed and overcome by the world. It's been a drum beating strong in my soul all week, this idea that I must stay the course; I must remember and remain who I am, even in the midst of powerful cultural forces seeking to distort me into someone else.  

The quote was something the Scholl family routinely invoked when pressure and stress threatened to become overwhelming. Germany in the 30's was tightly controlled. The only personal expression permitted was that which supported the National Socialist agenda. It was political correctness on steroids...where political correctness will ultimately run when unrestrained. It was heartening to learn that there were those in Germany who fought to stay true to the standards of decency they knew to be right. Regular people who tried to make a difference in any way they could, despite the constraints the German government placed upon its citizens. It became a society of betrayers and betrayed as the government spied on, jailed and executed many--mostly for the crime of not thinking or speaking as the Nazis said they should. It was a very dark time; Sophie and her brother Hans sought refuge from the horrors they witnessed and the stifling control under which they lived. They found light and strength and comfort in Christianity. God became the only constant upon which they could rely; a refuge of beauty from the ugliness of oppression and war.

Ours is a culture transforming from Judeo-Christian values into what we should expect when ethics vary according to situation and political correctness and values-neutral instruction have taught several generations that there is no such thing as objective right or wrong. We are reaping what we've sown, as every man does what is right in his own eyes. The upcoming election jangles discordantly. Like a rhythm out of sync or a wrong note played in a familiar song. It's uncomfortable watching those who wish to lead us resort to childish name calling—and worse—in pursuit of a political win. But the election itself is not the problem, it is only another symptom of a society growing seriously ill.

It has been instructive that the Republican party expects it is owed my vote; as if it is my life's calling to do my bit toward a conservative win. And of course I want to fulfill my civic responsibility and vote my conscience. But what a small, weak sort of calling that would be, when God calls me His family; an eternal being; a royal carrier of the glory of God; a world-changer; the Bride of Christ.   I Corinthians 6:2 says that one day we will judge the earth. We will rule and reign with Jesus. Makes this sad, tawdry political episode seem a bit beneath it all, doesn't it? 

We were made for so much more than arguing over which professional politician should be in charge. We've been told that fighting for the 'right' political outcome is imperative, but for Christians the real battle is to maintain our character, our salty flavor, our values—to continue "Christianing" in a world that screams there are more important things to worry about. But for us it must remain the vital, essential fight. To remain His, saved by grace; defined by love; branded by His Spirit, so utterly given to Jesus that we display His character no matter the powers arrayed against us. That we burn as torches in an increasingly darkening world.

This is a calling so beyond me and my small abilities that only He can fulfill it. Recurringly I find my heart, my inner man, shaken with fear over the storms darkening the far horizon. It seems to me that the cure for such thinking is to crowd it out by filling my heart and mind with Jesus. By meditating on His beauty; singing His praises and worshiping at His feet. By reading His words to me—hungrily, as a starving man sitting down to a long-anticipated meal. To maintain myself I need daily reminding that my identity and validation come from the highest source there is. So I remind myself that I belong to the King of all; that He remains serenely in control; that He is my anchor, my course and destination, and my portion forever.

Sophie and Hans Scholl and their friends made it their business to remind and exhort each other that God was sufficient—even in Nazi Germany. When they contended with martyrdom, they found Jesus fully adequate to the task. What an amazing encouragement! For He then must be sufficient for my trials and temptations as well. Those young people refused to let the culture of death all around them define who they were. For the joy set before them, they endured, they maintained themselves. Though they died more than 70 years ago, they continue to speak powerfully to us today.

Sophie Scholl said, "I will cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even when my numb hands can no longer feel it." That is tremendously good advice to us in 2016. Our world has become vulgar, coarse, and violent, but Jesus is lovely and worthy. I must lean on, rely on, and desire Jesus as my absolute necessity. I must have Him, like air to breathe, like food to eat, like sanity in a crazy world. Our great King is high above and beyond it all and filled with light. Let Him fill you with hope and wonder at His goodness; His beauty; His intention to set things right. Let Him recenter you, reminding you of your identity, your destiny, and your calling. His beauty and goodness are greater than that which fills the world. By focusing on Him, we gain strength to maintain ourselves, against all powers. Maranatha!

For [you] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, 
but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, 
against mighty powers in this dark world, 
and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 
Ephesians 6:12 NLT

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