Holocaust Memorial Day: 27 January 2016

With the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on January 27 1945, the complete picture of Nazi atrocities perpetrated on Jews, gypsies, communists and gays during the 1939-45 war started to be revealed. The murder of six million Jews, including one million children, stands as a bleak and enduring monument to man’s inhumanity to man. No wonder that the motto ‘Never Again’ was adopted by those seeking to learn from that dark moment in human history.

Sadly, although the scale and intent of Hitler’s “final solution” is unique, it seems that history still repeats itself. The evils of Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia differ little from those that went before. The inhumanity of man to man is seen in the action of the proponents of the Islamic State.  While ongoing ethnic cleansing, mass killings and human rights abuses, such as those in Darfur, Nigeria and Pakistan, still feature all too frequently in the news.

It seems that the cry “Never Again” is falling on deaf ears.

Human nature never changes

Similarly, reports of prisoner abuse in Iraq should not surprise us. That’s because, although history moves on, human nature stays the same. Everyone’s behavior falls short of the standards God sets for us, while a small minority have no standards governing their behavior at all. The lesson of history is that we can all be subhuman. God pulls no punches when he says:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV)

It’s possible that many of the people involved in atrocities, like the Holocaust, Rwanda or any other scenes of terrible violence, were unaware of their own evil nature until faced with the opportunity to show it to the full.

While the magnitude of such terrible events remain as gigantic blots on the record of human history, God also condemns those frequent failures of us all to maintain his divine standards. He calls such failure ‘sin’. We are all found guilty on one count or another because of the weakness of human nature:

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22 KJV)

None of us likes to admit such faults, or to accept that we are capable of such failures in the future. And neither do we want to suffer the consequences. Which is why the Bible reminds us that:

“Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15 KJV)

However good our intentions and our determination to keep God’s standards, we still experience failure and give in to temptation.

Good News at last!

Christ’s command to regularly remember him in the bread and wine – “this do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor.11:24-25) – also makes us face up to the weakness of our own human nature and the need for his sacrifice for our sins.

Fortunately, God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knew from the moment of creation that we would need to be saved from this sentence of death, which is why he sent Jesus to be a sacrifice for our sin. The ‘gospel’ message in the Bible is just that – the ‘good news’ that despite our sins, God is willing to forgive us and release us from death itself.

The history of the Jews teaches us many important lessons, including the consequences of failing to keep God’s commands. But it also teaches us about God’s love and forgiveness for those who acknowledge their weakness and respond to the call of the gospel. And even though recent headlines show that the cry ‘Never Again’ has been ignored, the Bible gives us grounds to be more hopeful about our future, as well as a timely warning:

“Take heed, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12 KJV)

As we remember the Nazi Holocaust we remember as well that some things will never change until Jesus returns. Only then will it be possible to say with absolute confidence: “Never again!”