Marvin Olasky, the editor-in-chief of World magazine, recently wrote a heart-wrenching article describing the slaughter of Jews in Olevsk, Ukraine — including his own great-grandparents. On May 21, 1942, an eyewitness named Yitzhak Feiner described how a German Einsatzkommando unit took “men and women, six at a time, and led them to a pit, after each had to undress and remain naked. In the pit, they were made to lie face down and on the edge of the pit six Germans, ready with their revolvers, shot the victims in the head.”
That account is shocking enough, but Olasky did not stop there. Continuing Feiner’s statement, he wrote how German soldiers seized small Jewish children and threw them into “horse-driven wagons just like one would throw stones. The murderer would seize the child — by the little hand, by the leg, by the head or by the shirt — and throw it into the wagon. The wagons were loaded full with the children, one on top of the other, [who] were thrown, alive, straight from the wagon to the pit. After two wagons were unloaded this way, two grenades were thrown in, tearing the children apart.”
Reading that description of abominable evil from 78 years ago broke my heart. Transcribing those words today brings tears to my eyes.
If my own human heart and dulled moral sensitivity is impacted so grievously by this historic portrayal of malevolent sin, just imagine how it offends our holy God. But that raises an important question: What level of sin does it take to rouse your moral outrage and prick your heart?
America’s Moral Outrage
As I was reflecting on that callous disregard for Jewish lives in the midst of World War II, I happened across comments that were left on a social media post I recently made regarding the battle for Life in our own country.
Earlier this spring, Kentucky’s Democratic governor vetoed a bill that would have protected the life of a child who survived abortion and dared to be born alive. He claimed that he “didn’t want to be divisive during the coronavirus outbreak.” Having served for 13 years in the Kentucky legislature and chaired the Pro-Life Caucus, his dissembling disregard for Life saddened and angered me. I observed that “evil will always be divided from good.”
A woman whose own profile testifies to her faith in Christ (she even touts 1 Thessalonians 5:18 as a favorite verse: “In everything give thanks”) took exception to my post. She contacted me to insist that Democratic politicians should not be blamed for abortion policies and praised the leadership of Kentucky’s current pro-abortion governor. Instead, she suggested that outrage should only be focused on the pregnant women who seek and receive an abortion — not politicians, and not providers like Planned Parenthood.
Obviously, there are many agents acting immorally with regard to abortion. Most women who receive an abortion in this country do so by their own will, although a significant percentage do so under duress — heavily influenced by the baby’s father, the woman’s family or friends, or the pimp who has her enslaved to a destructive lifestyle. But the cultural influencers who have been avidly promoting abortion as a legitimate choice and Constitutional right bear moral responsibility as well. And, the policymakers who accept millions from abortion lobbyists and pledge their souls to defend this abomination in our land bear moral responsibility as well.
I wondered if my social media critic would protest that Nazi policies and leaders bear no responsibility for the murders that occurred in Olevsk and thousands of other towns and villages under German occupation. Would she claim that only the soldiers who fired the shots, flung the children, and tossed the grenades are morally responsible for the death of Jews that day in May 1942? Or would she recognize that the culture and society that tolerated such abominations are also culpable for the atrocities they countenance.
The horror of the episode recounted by Marvin Olasky and the response to my Facebook post brings to mind the numbness of our own moral discernment. How great an outrage does it take to provoke heartbreak and tears? Do any of us ever feel utter repugnance over our own moral shortcomings? Do our sins and our sinfulness leave us heartbroken and shattered — as individuals or as a society? What would God have to do to shake us out of our complacency?
This is an important question every person must grapple with. I do not want anyone to live a defeated life burdened by sin, but Scripture demands that we all come to recognize our own hopeless predicament. When Isaiah was privileged to stand before the throne of God, his shame left him undone. He said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) He understood that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” in the light of God’s holiness (Isaiah 64:6). Similarly, we must come to the end of ourselves and turn to the Father with a contrite heart, just as the prodigal son did.
The Bible is clear. All have fallen short of the glory of God — leaving us hopelessly lost without Christ (Romans 3:21-24). The proper response to the awareness of our own sin is repentance. Hearing Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, the gathered crowd was “pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?'” (Acts 2:37). Peter did not mince words, but offered the only remedy possible: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
The Sin of Toleration
But what of collective sin? What stain so infects a society that it is an anathema to God? And, how can that society turn aside God’s righteous wrath? Simply put — in the same manner as individuals. When Ninevah believed God’s warning of judgment and repented of its wickedness in sackcloth and ashes, God relented and His wrath was turned aside (Jonah 3:5-10).
Are Christians responsible for the wickedness of the nation where they live? I will respond by citing Jesus’ admonition to the church in Thyatira. He said, “I have this against you, that you tolerate…” (Revelation 2:20) In their case they tolerated a woman named Jezebel who called herself a prophetess but led His followers astray. What have American Christians tolerated for far too long? The abominations of abortion, sexual perversion, hostility toward God, and callous disregard for His laws. Adding insult to injury, as our parents used to say we know better.
The writer of Hebrews wrote that mature Christians are accustomed to the word of righteousness. They partake of solid food and “because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). These are the intercessors who can warn a society and impact a nation. Daniel is an exemplar of that kind of godliness. He is one of the few characters featured in the Bible who has no recorded human flaws. And yet, when his study of Bible prophecy led him to understand that the time was drawing near when God’s promise to Israel would be fulfilled, Daniel took personal responsibility for the sins of his people. He wrote:
So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplication, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said… “we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets… Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You (Daniel 9:3-6, 8 – emphasis mine).
Do you feel that kind of personal responsibility? Have you prayed for God to forgive our land by repenting of the sin of toleration? Is your burden for the lost so great that you dread on their behalf the judgment that awaits them soon and very soon?
Ruth Graham once said, “If God does not judge America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” How much longer will God withhold the wrath our nation and the world deserve? What are you doing to intercede for people all around you? Many of them are attuned to spiritual things right now and looking for answers. Christians should be ready to give an explain the reason for the hope that is in us — even in, or especially in, such a time as this (1 Peter 3:15).
Other Christian writers have responded to the rhetorical question, “Why me?” The rightful answer is, “Why not me?” In other words, the Bible teaches that I deserve the wrath of God. It is His amazing grace — His unmerited favor — that sent Jesus into the world and offered Him up as the perfect sacrifice for my sins.
2020 left the world asking, “Why would God allow a pandemic like the coronavirus to inflict mankind?” The Christian responds by observing, “God demonstrates His mercy in holding back His wrath.” And not just wrath for the hate-inspired actions of Nazi murderers, or the morally bankrupt policies of a nation given over to killing millions of unborn innocents. His mercies are new every morning, and enjoyed by every person deserving of judgment and wrath.
Those who put their faith in Jesus Christ will never experience His condemnation. The wrath they deserve was poured out on God’s own Son as He hung on the cross of Calvary. But the cup of God’s judgment is filling fast. He will soon loose His own terrible swift sword of justice as He pours out wrath on an unrepentant world — first and collectively during a seven-year period known as the Tribulation, and then individually as men and women stand before the Judgment seat of Christ.
I can still remember the tears that flowed when I came to understand my own sinfulness and gave my life to Jesus as a young man. Repentance was the only appropriate response to a broken heart — and my salvation was sealed when I put my trust in Jesus to save me. Since that moment I’ve at times have felt my own heart wandering away from Spirit-inspired discernment, leaving me at times blasé about lingering sin — in my own life or in the world around me. In spite of myself, He has been faithful, held me close, and opened my eyes. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24).
In this season of unprecedented upheaval in our nation’s living memory, many are recognizing that something is terribly amiss. We’re witnessing the degradation of our culture as God is evicted from the public square and His laws are flagrantly rejected. Humanism’s claim that mankind can evolve toward perfection is once again demonstrated to be a satanic lie. But does the outrage offend us because it disrupts our normal routine or because it is offensive to our Holy God?
Our Charge in “Such at Time as This”
This is no time to retreat. As one great American general said when told he was surrounded, the enemy can’t get away from us now — we can attack in any direction. Paul wrote that we are no longer sons of darkness or the night (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6). Led by the Holy Spirit, he also assures us:
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strive and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:12-14).
Are you outraged by the moral confusion in our culture, the rampant lawlessness in our society, and the smug disdain for God Almighty demonstrated by millions destined for Hell?
God was so outraged that He sent Jesus to bear the wrath such sin provoked. Do we love as He does — enough to incur the indignity and endure the persecution the world heaps on anyone who dares to cry in the wilderness? Just as when Jesus ministered on the earth, many fair-weather followers will fade when the hour grows late and the darkness descends. There is no doubt that the Church is being winnowed right now. Many will blow away like chaff in the wind when the storm rages. That is why we must encourage one another to faithfully endure.
Corey Ten Boom once said that she found it easier to forgive the Nazis who abused her and killed her family than the Christians who betrayed her — and their own testimony of faith. As the world grows darker, you will have an increasing opportunity to shine as a light in the darkness. An even greater moral outrage than immorality, lawlessness, and wickedness on the part of unbelievers is complacency and cowardice on the part of those who know Christ. We will pray that you resolve to be an overcomer.