Paying the price for standing up to the Nazis.
By Charles Gardner.
The approach to Passover and Easter is a good time to remember the extreme bravery of German pastor Paul Schneider, who almost single-handedly stood up to Nazi brutality in the years immediately preceding World War II.
He paid with his life, murdered by lethal injection in July 1939, aged just 42, in a bid to forever silence his refusal to bow to Nazi ideology.
But, as with Bible heroes, he still speaks nearly a century on, with the Third Reich long since crumbled to dust.
His last months were spent in the notorious Buchenwald Concentration Camp, where he was repeatedly beaten and tortured. Yet, from his cell window, he accused his captors and encouraged his fellow inmates.
On Easter Sunday, when thousands of prisoners were assembled for mustering, he defied his severe handicap inflicted by torture as he climbed to his cell window and shouted: “Comrades, listen to me. This is Pastor Schneider. People are tortured and murdered here. So the Lord says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life!’”
Schneider refused to compromise or accommodate Nazi influence in the church, challenging: “Where are those Christian consciences who judge righteously, who take the standard for their politics neither from National Socialism nor from socialism, but rather from the gospel?”1
The Holocaust could have been avoided if the German church had stood as one against Nazism in the way Schneider did. Instead, we’re still reaping the whirlwind sown by such spineless betrayal of our Lord and his gospel as we try to convince Jewish survivors that it wasn’t Christians who sent them to the camps.
Similarly today, some are bravely holding out in the face of the wicked world of wokery (the new form of witchcraft) bulldozing its way through the foundations of our morality. A British Bible College professor has been summarily dismissed from a once highly esteemed evangelical institution for rightly calling out the same-sex marriage agenda, tweeting: “If sin is no longer sin, we no longer need a Saviour.” Father-of-five Dr Aaron Edwards was even threatened with a counter-terrorism referral.
If the rest of the UK church followed his example, the poisonous effects of worldly wokery would soon be healed. The Bible warns us not to be ‘yoked together’ with unbelievers, but to “come out from among them and be separate” and “touch no unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17, Isaiah 52:11).
Paul the Apostle adds that we should have nothing to do with those having a form of godliness while denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). He further predicts that the teaching of those who do not correctly handle the word of truth will spread like gangrene (see 2 Timothy 2:14-17), a pretty disgusting but thoroughly apt image in view of the rainbow flag-waving crowds determined that we should all accept homosexual and other vile practices as entirely normal.
But there is a better way. Those protesting against the Israeli government’s judicial reform proposals were received with evident graciousness by the Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak. The Bible-believers were meeting aggression and false teaching with love and truth, handing out food and drink while dancing and rejoicing before the Lord. A sight to really savour was the video of the motorcyclist who took off his helmet to join in the singing, lifting his hands in worship as his tear-stained face glowed with apparent ecstasy.
I pray this marks a turning point in the hearts of God’s ancient people – and the Gentile world they have been called to bless. I know this was Tel Aviv, but the biblical call to pray for the peace of neighbouring Jerusalem has never been so urgent.
Could this be a glimpse, or even a trailer, of that glorious day when “all Israel shall be saved” and they look on the One they have pierced and grieve for him as they would for an only child and a first-born son (Romans 11:26, Zechariah 12:10)?
I conclude where I started, with another challenging story from the Nazi era. An elderly lady has found shalom in Messiah after sharing her story from life in the ghettos.
She told how the Nazis wanted to shoot her father, but she threw herself upon him and said, ‘Shoot me instead’. The sight of a child being prepared to die for her father softened the Nazis’ hearts and they let him go.
A companion then told her that, just as she was prepared to die in her father’s place, so God gave his beloved Son to die in her place. She duly accepted Yeshua into her life and found the shalom for which every Jew longs.
1Heroes of the Faith, April-June 2023, www.newlifepublishing.co.uk