166557783Jakob the Liar was on cable. And CNN was broadcasting live, the 60th Anniversary Commemoration of the liberation of Auswitch, a place where:

More than one million Jews were killed but Gypsies, Poles, Russians also died in the camp. Hundreds were subjected to medical experiments by Nazi doctors trying to prove theories of Aryan supremacy. Reuters

I thought it was a good time to tell no. 2 son about the Holocaust.

Six million Jews were killed? Why?? Dad answered that it was because one mad man thought that the Jews were responsible for the problems of the world. And that by killing all he Jews he was doing the world a favour.

No. 2 son shook his head. He was clearly perplexed. But didn’t show much emotional engagement. He went back to his online friends.

Maybe he is still too young. I guess there was little in his life to date that gave him any context to understand the horror that was the holocaust. Come to think of it there was little in my own history that gave me any context for understanding the holocaust either.

There was only once when I was with a person at the point of death. My wife exhaled once, twice, and she was gone. Its hard to imagine thousands, millions, of wives, husbands, daughters, sons, grandparents, herded into gas chambers to have their lives taken from them. Or maybe I just don’t want to imagine.

But the word from the Auswitch anniversary is that people soon forget. From the killing fields of Cambodia to the madness of Rwanda, brother still kills brother; Cain still smashes the skull of Abel.

It’s no good distancing ourselves from the Hitlers of the world. Have you experienced road rage? If you live in any urban centre in the world, I can safely assume that traffic conditions are such that there are times you wish you had a pistol. Or that you could hurl your steering lock into the *^%%+3#?s windscreen. Don’t know about you, but given the right circumstances I can see myself doing some serious damage to my fellow human beings.

Here lies the heart of the paradox of the human condition. Situations like the recent tsunami showed that humankind is capable of startling sacrificial altruism. The same DNA is also capable of dealing death by the thousands. What’s with the Jekyll and Hyde?

It seems there are two principles at play in the world, the principle of life and the principle of death. The Apostle John puts it this way:

“For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him, how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth…” 1 John 3:11-18 HCSB

Lined up on one side is death, lies, Satan, hatred, Cain. Lined up for the other side is life, truth, Jesus, love, Abel. The world may indeed be full of various shades of grey but the bible continues to insist that there are only two sides in life. And which side you are on is more a matter of spiritual lineage than mere head knowledge.

Which may explain why, in spite of the loud and sincere cries of “never again” that rang out at the end of World War 2, we have since had our Killing Fields and our Rwandas. There is something pathologically wrong with the human spirit. And that until we are converted from one lineage to the other, we remain trapped in hatred and death.

All this may seem quite removed from our daily experience. Few of us are facing the rise of a Hitler in our neighbourhoods. But that’s just it. If only people had spoken out in the early days of Nazism would it have flowered and given birth to its deadly fruit?

Of course there will be times when it will be costly to speak out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us of the true cost of discipleship. But the question remains: which side are you on??

Often the battle between good and evil is not fought out on some dramatic cosmic scale. It is often fought out in the simple decisions we make everyday as we encounter the needs of a fallen world.

Evangelicals, of which I am one, are so concerned to get our doctrines right. And indeed we should. But proof of our orthodox pedigree goes way beyond right belief.

If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him, how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth??

The choice is not between truth and love. True truth must love.

Or as Wolverine asked Storm in the X-Men: “There’s a war coming. Are you sure you’re on the right side?”

Well the war is already raging. Are you on the right side? Am I?

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan