The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
- 1 John 2:8
There has been quite a bit in the news lately that smacks of anti-Semitism. Sadly, it appears that anti-Jewish rhetoric continues to ramp up in our nation. The faith we share is labeled “Judeo-Christian” for a reason. The roots of historic Christianity sink deep into the soil of God’s covenant relationship with the people of Israel. I hope our study in Genesis is demonstrating this to you. The Bible contains sixty-six inspired books, thirty-nine of which make up the Jewish canon (we call it the Old Testament). I am one who believes that God may still have a unique plan for ethnic Israel (see Romans 11 and Revelation 14:1-5). Regardless of what we believe about the Jewish nation today and God’s relationship with it, we are clearly called in Scripture to make no distinctions regarding humans and their relative worth based on race, gender, social status, or ethnicity (Gal. 3:28-29). Our prejudices are just that —prejudices — and when they lead us to mistreat people they are sinful, plain and simple. Christ-followers are called to run counter to this behavior. We can talk about how we were raised and the many ways we believe we have been mistreated all we like. That is in the past — Christ is our future. “Here there is no Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).
I have spoken before about the autobiography entitled Night, written by Elie Wiesel, and how it impacted me both intellectually and, quite frankly, emotionally. Night is Wiesel’s memoir documenting the harrowing experiences he and his family lived through as the German Third Reich ramped up its pogrom against Jews in German-occupied Hungary in early 1944. He survived the deprivations of that time, but his father, mother, and younger sister did not. It is heartbreaking, sobering, and soul-crushing to consider the ends to which human depravity can go — to observe the cold-hearted detachment by which one human being can consider another. His memories concerning the nightmare world of the death camps presented him with a question he could not escape: How could the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these hellish events to occur?
After Buchenwald was liberated (incidentally, my father was part of Patton’s Third Army that liberated Buchenwald), Wiesel and two surviving sisters immigrated to the United States. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1986 and served as Professor of Humanities at Boston University. He passed away only recently, in 2016. His memoir forces the reader to consider some of the most important questions that can be considered in this lifetime. In my opinion, it makes one feel silly (comparatively speaking) to live in a society where people clamber to see what some celebrity (who usually has no real job) is doing day to day in one of their multiple mansions, or to know what dress or suit an A-lister from Hollywood wore to a premier, when such mind-numbing brutality is playing out across our world. A world where people who have had everything stripped away from them are asking the heart-wrenching question: Where are you, God?
Where is God? He is everywhere, from the death camps of WWII to the remote locals in our world where genocide is being carried out today. He is there with the child aborted or abandoned by her mother or father, to the hospital room where godly parents are saying goodbye to their only child who was taken by leukemia or some other disease. In the midst of all the horrors that humans force upon one another or a fallen world generates, God is alive and well. He has called us to show that we belong to him by a life lived in obedience to his word, in which we allow his love to be perfected in us (John 13:35; 2 John 1:6).
Elie Wiesel was forced to live in a world where those who walk in darkness held power. We will all enter into the year 2021 under different circumstances than those he encountered in 1944-45. Nevertheless, it remains a world ruled by those in darkness. In spite of this reality, we can, and must, walk in the light. The darkness is indeed passing away and the true light is already shining. That light lives in you if you know Christ. Brothers and sisters, let that light shine in 2021!
Grace and peace,