When evil gains power it NEVER brings people together. It NEVER strengthens the bonds of affection between people. ALWAYS, it destroys individuality and divides people into groups. Groups are more easily controlled to enhance the power of evil. We see the power of isolation clearly illustrated in the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Sometimes however, we voluntarily pursue isolation in our own lives, perhaps not understanding the danger … that isolation can cause love to fade.
Yad Vashem is a museum in Israel dedicated to the remembrance of the Holocaust victims and the heroes who tried to save them. The museum traces the efforts of the Nazis to exterminate Jews, from their rise to power in 1933 to the liberation of the concentration camps, to the struggle for the founding of the State of Israel.
On a visit to the museum recently one question puzzled me: While we know that the Nazis were pure evil, how is it that a nation of 67 million allowed this to happen? Are the Germans less loving than other people? My mother was German. I have met many wonderful Germans in my life. I cannot believe anything inherent in the German people led to the Holocaust and besides, other nationalities cooperated willingly in the horror.
A scripture that seemed to apply came to mind: “When iniquity abounds, the love of many shall grow cold” (Matt. 24:12 )
In the years following their defeat in WW1, there was high political and economic instability in Germany, along with high rates of unemployment and the rise of extreme left and right wing movements. After the Nazis rose to power in 1933, they quickly transformed Germany into a totalitarian state, meaning no individual freedom was permitted. New organizations were formed for all Germans including schoolchildren. The Nazi state sought to create an atmosphere of belonging and common purpose for all Germans, but one in which Jews and others who did not belong were pushed out and isolated.
There were about 525,000 Jews living in Germany in 1933. They had become part of German society, were generally well accepted and certainly not hated. Decades earlier, Bismarck himself attended the opening of a famous synagogue, giving the Jews his stamp of approval.
A boycott against Jewish business began in April of 1933. Laws were passed that removed Jews from most areas of life, such as the public service, arts and culture, the media and press. In 1935, the infamous Nuremberg Laws were passed which defined Jews as a separate race. Jews henceforth could not belong to German society or be citizens of the German state IN ANY WAY.
Germans did not protest the persecution of the Jews. When Jews lost their jobs, Germans were happy to fill them. Jewish businesses and property became available at low prices. In the schools, Jews were increasingly subjected to verbal and physical abuse from classmates and teachers. Not all Germans immediately complied with the new Nazi “standards”. Dissent of course was not permitted.
The Nazi Teachers’ Association wrote that German youth would no longer be confronted with the “random formation of opinion”. Everything they learned “must be shown to be correct according to the principles of National Socialist ideology”.
In Germany, Jews became “outsiders”. In the course of time, as the gap between Germans and the “outsiders” widened, sympathy declined. The “outsiders” were not just ignored but also were branded as threats to the community and burdens on the conscience of all who remained silent.
After the Nazis rose to power, iniquity in Germany “abounded” unlike it had ever done before. As evil gains power it NEVER brings people together. It NEVER strengthens the bonds of affection between people. ALWAYS, it destroys individuality and divides people into groups. Groups are more easily controlled to enhance the power of evil. Before long, the Jews ceased to have a functioning role in society and became “invisible” to their 67 million German neighbors.
So after 5 years of Nazi rule, the German people had reached a point where they ceased to care what happened to their now invisible neighbors. The trains came to take away the Jews, never to return. Most Germans said nothing as they watched them go. A few raised their voices and some actually fought back. They now have a tree dedicated to their memory growing on the grounds at Yad Vashem. Their name rests at the base of the tree, never to be forgotten.
The separation of people in Germany caused natural affection to fade and die. And if it was true then can it also true for us today? Does isolation generally speaking, cause natural affection to fade? Let us consider another scripture may provide an answer: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39)
Why is it difficult sometimes to “love your neighbor as yourself”? Why is it easier to love your child, or a friend? The answer seems rather obvious. Our children and friends are a part of our lives so loving them is about the SAME as loving ourselves. Other people play the role of “others” in our lives.
The closer someone is to us, the more real they become and the easier it is to love them. When a person ceases to be visible in our life, we are less inclined to have affection for them.
Our greatest reality is ourselves. We see the world through our own eyes. We intimately know our strengths and vulnerabilities. It is easy to forgive ourselves, far easier than to forgive others. Some say the greatest shared reality, greater even than marriage, is the reality shared by men in combat. They share the same danger and deprivation, and stand on the precipice of death together. There was a closeness, wasn’t there, between the thief on the cross and Christ, as they faced death together.
If you could be connected to my nerves, you really could feel my pain. If you could connect to my mind, we would be as real to each other as we are to ourselves. The apostle Paul adds this thought: “Let this mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). When we have the mind of God, we cease to be isolated from Him and He becomes very, very real to us.
Paul also said: “… there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it” (1 Cor. 12:25-27).
Togetherness is important for Christians because it allows us to share our realities. We strengthen bonds of affection. In fellowship “someone else” ceases to be “someone else” and becomes part of “me”. Then what Paul here talks about becomes possible: your suffering becomes my suffering and your honor becomes my honor. The closer our respective realities become, the more inclined we are to love someone else in the measure that we love ourselves.
But notice in the same verse how Paul desires “no division in the body”. Division is the opposite of fellowship since it destroys fellowship and bonds of affection. Paul is talking about fellowship in the church but his words have broad application. The Germans and Jews were content to live happily alongside each other in, but then came the Nazis who forced division and as a consequence, social affection between them ceased to be.
In 1930s Germany, I believe Satan himself used the instrument of isolation as a means to destroy the Jews. His strategy was simple; isolate and then destroy. So I ask myself the question: Why would I ever want to pursue isolation in my own life when I know this is what Satan uses to hurt mankind?
What do I mean “pursue isolation”? We each have our own way of doing it. God did not intend for us to function alone, that we isolate ourselves in our own soundproof world and comfort zones. He did not intend that we walk through life disconnected from others by earphones, iPhones, cheap attractions and addictions. Even within a family or church, members can “pursue isolation”. When we do so we make life easy for Satan. Perhaps we simply do not understand the danger.
The opposite of “pursue isolation” is “draw closer together”. There is no remote control in keeping God’s law of love; we cannot love others from a distance. The task is not part time and cannot be done as we look up and down at our cell phones. It requires real energy. We devote great energy loving ourselves. Does it not then seem logical that we devote similar energy loving others?
Energy spent does not remain in its original state. In the natural world, energy converts into a different form of energy; chemical energy for example may turn into heat energy. Connecting with others converts our human energy into love. Is this just an analogy or is it also reality? The transfer of energy or whatever we call it works in all aspects of our lives; in our families, at work, at church, with anyone we meet. It is God’s spiritual law in action.
The first great law, to love God with all our heart, connects us to Him. The second law connects us to our fellow human being. Each of these two great laws opposes isolation. Whether married or single, young or old, or whether we associate with many people or few, the bottom line is this … we should be wary of the danger of “isolation” however it manifests itself in our lives.