I am reading a book about World War Two entitled “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. It is a story of a Dutch family that hid Jewish people from the Nazi’s during the Nazi occupation of Holland and the price it cost the family. Corrie survived but spent some time in a German concentration camp. It is a sobering true story and certainly one all Christians should read. In chapter five of this book Corrie asks a very interesting question. “How should a Christian act when evil was in power?” I would like to explore this question.
First of all every Christian will encounter evil at some point in their life. While many of us may not experience the depth of depravity that evil can present there are others who will. Corrie ten Boom and her family certainly experienced such depraved evil as do many others during times of war. If an evil government took over your country, how, as a Christian, are you to react? Will you resist the government? Will you fight the government openly? Will you silently accept the outcome? What guidance is there from Scripture in such a situation? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says.
Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel: “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.” For thus says the Lord God: “The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.” For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
Seek the Lord and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth! He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress. They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time.
Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: “In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord, Amos 5:1-17, (English Standard Bible or ESV).
I think there are several scripture passages that we could look at but this one from the book of Amos is most instructive. First of all it is worth noting the description of the lifestyle that God hated so much that He brought complete destruction upon a Jewish culture. I believe that this is one reason we have such wars today. James tells us in chapter four how quarrels and fights begin, with our passions raging within us. This is not difficult to see when one country wants to have power over another. James also says in chapter four that friendship with the world makes one an enemy of God and what happens when a culture rages against God? Often a time of sifting out the bad from the good is the result. God is allowing a group of people to be sifted and for the righteous to get back on the righteous road. But there is more here in Amos on how we are to behave.
The line Seek good, and not evil, that you may live is repeated three times so we should pay attention to what is being said and use this as a guideline in our lives. We need to remember that God’s definition of good and evil is to be sought and not the culture’s definitions of good and evil. The world thinking is twisted and not the true definition of what is good or what is evil. This is a glaring truth to remember if we want to live a Godly life. How we find what is good or evil by God’s definition is to read the Bible and do what it says. There is much wisdom in this old and treasured book.
Also another line from the passage in Amos gives us another clue as to how a Christian should act when evil is in power: Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Good advice, to keep silent and be wise. There are other scriptures that confirm that silence is golden.
A time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak, Ecclesiastes 3:7, (ESV).
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues, Proverbs 10:19, (ESV).
Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly, Proverbs 14:29, (ESV).
Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city, Proverbs 16:32, (ESV).
The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered, Proverbs 17:27, (ESV).
When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding, Proverbs 28:12, (ESV).
I am pretty sure that if people are hiding they are being quiet. Yes, I believe that during evil rulers reign Christians are wise to be silent but that doesn’t mean they do nothing. Silence does not mean we agree with someone it just means that we are wise enough to say nothing that will get us into trouble. That is what the ten Boom family did and they also made certain that they helped those people who would have been killed to escape to freedom.
So what have we learned thus far? That we as Christians living under an evil power should live a quiet life and not draw attention to ourselves. We don’t stir up controversy or argue about things, we just go about our daily life in a Godly way. We are to also live a righteous life and allow God’s righteousness to rule our conduct and behavior. But isn’t that the life we are to live daily anyway? What did Jesus teach to His disciples? Jesus taught when He sent out the disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons, and to let the Jewish people know that the Messiah had come something a bit different than keeping silent and safe. I think Jesus was preparing the men for what would come years later when He told them how to conduct themselves.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you, Matthew 10:16-20, (ESV).
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven, Matthew 10:26-33, (ESV).
Jesus made it pretty clear that there would be some beatings and some arrests and some difficult days ahead for the disciples as they spread the Good News around their country. Jesus stated rather clearly what His followers could expect while preaching the Gospel. This message can be for some of us today as well, especially if we are the Christian minority living in our country. Jesus clearly states that we will not be alone, that the Holy Spirit will speak the words at the right time to the right people. We can have courage because the Holy Spirit will direct us when to speak and when not to. We don’t need to look for trouble because trouble will come at some point in our lives and when it does Jesus assures us that we are important to our Heavenly Father. God will protect us and will lead us through the situation.
This brings me to a point I think worth noting. We can learn from many other examples of how others have lived through an occupation of evil. Sometimes God works differently within the same war-torn period, such as in the case from the other side of the world. Dr. Nelson Bell and his family were medical missionaries in China for many years. Dr. Bell is the father of Ruth Bell Graham, Billy Graham’s wife and Franklin Graham’s Mother. In the book “A Foreign Devil In China” by John C. Pollock we see the story of how the Bell family survived the occupation of China by the Japanese during World War Two. Dr. Bell lived a righteous life before men regardless of where he lived and he did not give way to fear. This book is a testimony of how God protected the missionaries and the work in China and how Dr. Bell continued to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ even in the midst of such a hostile war. What I am trying to say is that not in every situation do we Christians need worry about how the battle against evil takes shape. For the ten Boom family it cost some of them their very lives but for the Bell family it cost no one their lives. Yet the same God was in charge of the outcome of both families. Perhaps that is the point!
God is in control of our lives. Jesus tells us in the passage above that we are so important to our Father that we are more valuable than the sparrows so much so that the numbers of our hair are counted and kept in His record. I certainly don’t know how many hairs are on my head, do you? It is comforting to know that God keeps a record of that and cares that deeply for me and for you. God will protect us and sometimes that protection comes in the form of death as it did for some of the ten Boom family. So what else does scripture teach us about how to live when an evil power is in rule?
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses, Proverbs 10:12, (ESV).
When we are faced with hatred we have options. We humans can either give hate back or we can give love back to the person who has shown us hate. As a Christian I can say from personal experience that there have been times when I was faced with hateful people doing hateful things to me and I showed love to them and they backed off. I don’t know how it works but I know it works. We are to not let our love grow cold (Matthew 24:12-13) even when living under an evil ruler or government. If we are not showing love then aren’t we showing hate? After all they are the two opposites love and hate. So it is better to show love as we are taught by Jesus.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:43-48, (ESV).
Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense. Proverbs 10:19-21, (New International Version).
I believe that we don’t need to stress about what we will do when or if we live under an evil occupation. It is pretty clear that we are to seek advice from our Bible and we are to continue to show love for the enemy around us. We are to pray for our enemies. If you think about that for a moment I think you will realize that there are enemies all around us, some enemies are people and some are countries and we are to pray that they see light and truth rather than darkness and lies. We can pray for those missionaries who are called to go to these people and countries to teach them the truth and show them the light. We are to live a quiet life and we are to live a righteous life at all times whether under peaceful or evil rulers. If and when the time comes that we are to speak the Holy Spirit will do the talking for us. I am thankful for that, aren’t you?