At our last Education/Discipleship Team Meeting, our team leader, Jerry Mulder, recommended a book entitled, “The Church in Babylon: Heading the Call to be a Light in the Darkness” (Edwin Lutzer). The basic premise is that the contemporary Church is much like the children of Israel when they found themselves in the captivity of Babylon. We, like they, are commanded by God to engage our culture without being spiritually destroyed by it. How do we love, lead, and serve with Christ’s heart and mind in today’s Babylon?
The book is an interesting read if you’re looking for some thought-provoking observations on the role of individual Christians and the place of the church in an increasingly corrupt American culture. But, honestly, I don’t feel I gained a whole lot of new insight, or that I was given very much that made me want to “roll up my sleeves” and get to work. I feel like too much of the book was spent on example after dramatic example of our culture’s depraved condition. However, all that being said, I do want to share this illustration with you this morning because I think it makes an important point and poses a Biblical challenge to all of us.
Dr. Lutzer concludes the book with an appeal to the church in America to faithfully “carry the cross” to the world, especially those whom we find disgusting and repulsive and who seem to be bent on the eradication of Christianity. He challenges us to trust that in God’s eyes, no one is too sinful to be saved. To support his point, Dr. Lutzer tells this story about a Lutheran pastor who was the chaplain to twenty-one Nazis who were hanged in Nuremberg.
The American government decided that there should be a chaplain for these criminals. Most people disagreed, but nonetheless, Henry Gerecke was chosen. He was from St Louis but spoke German fluently, so he was asked to chaplain these criminals. People admonished him. “You should not even shake hands with these men!” He replied, “If they are to believe my message, I have to be friendly to them,” so he shook hands and interacted with them. Among the twenty-one prisoners, there were six Catholics and fifteen Protestants. In the chapel service, some of these Nazis participated in reciting the Lords’s Prayer and even knew the Creed. According to Gerecke, five of these criminals, and possibly seven, came to saving faith in Jesus Christ before they were killed. Ribbentrop, who was Hitler’s foreign minister, before he was executed, said that “he put his trust in the blood of the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.”
The fact that some of Hitler’s evil henchmen will be in heaven is offensive to many, especially when we realize that some of those whom they tormented might not join them in the Heavenly city. But that’s the “scandal of the cross; ”grace pays no attention to the depths and gravity of our sin. It only asks that we believe the Gospel.”
So whether it’s Daniel in Babylon, or you and me in Hudsonville, we’re commanded by God to engage our culture with the Grace of God, and not a condemning, vengeful spirit. We’re to love, lead, and serve with Christ’s heart and mind in today’s Babylon.
Written by Jim De Horn