Thank the Lord that we live in an age when we can still hear firsthand memories from the people who suffered through the horrors of Hitler’s regime. Thank God for technology that has been preserving those memories for generations to come.
It was real. It happened. Human beings committed atrocities on other humans beyond our comprehension. We have ample documentation and opportunity for everyone to become knowledgeable about the holocaust. Everyone needs to know. “Never again” is supposed to put a period after it.
And yet, anti-Semitism is on the rise again in our day. Is our memory so short? The Jews have been targets of attempted extinction from the beginning of their history. Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Crusades, Spain, Germany, Russia. The church has been complicit also. It’s “ever again.” And yet, the God-ordained miracle is that Jewish people still survive to this day, and have returned to re-establish their homeland, Israel.
But let me make that picture a little broader.
Systematic ethnic cleansing and genocide among other people groups occurred throughout the twentieth century and continues to this day. Aren’t those terrible euphemisms? They’re sanitary ways to say group persecution, forced expulsion and mass murder. I won’t list all the examples from around the world. You can look these up for yourself. But persecution and murder of Christians are also on the rise. Then, include millions of the unborn.
“Man’s inhumanity to man,” was a phrase used by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1785.
The prophet Jeremiah said:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? –Jeremiah 17:9
Reports of violence fill the nightly news. “If it bleeds, it leads.” Whether one person kills another or multiple victims, it is horrible. What precedes these evil actions?
Jesus said it this way in Matthew 15:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.
We all want to say, “But that’s not me. I’m not that bad. I’ve never killed anyone, and I’m sure not a Nazi. Sometimes, I even do some pretty good things.” But I want to forget about those little unkind acts I have committed, little betrayals of friend and family.
This verse follows the one cited above from Jeremiah:
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” –Jeremiah 17:10
David says in Psalm 14: 2-3
The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
David should know. His own act of betrayal and murder caused him to write his repentance in Psalm 51, begging God to grant him a clean heart and renewed right spirit.
Ezekiel 33:13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die.
Then, the Apostle Paul repeats it in Romans 3:10: “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;”
None? No one? So what chance do we have? Let me let Titus sum it up for us.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 3:6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 3:7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
He is our hope. He is our life. He is our righteousness.
Jeremiah says this in two places: chapter 23:6 and 33:16.
In his days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he (the Branch) will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
The heart that does not repent and has not been washed clean and renewed by the Holy Spirit remains dark, capable of unspeakable evil. We need a new heart, which God gives. (Ezekiel 36:26) When we let Jesus be Lord over our lives, He transforms our heart and becomes our Righteousness. (Jer. 31:33) In that way, the fruit of my deeds (Jer. 17:10) is the fruit of the Spirit and acceptable to God.