When Goodness Happened

More important than our experience of Christ, is the Christ of our experience.~ James B. Torrance

Recently, my youngest daughter was tasked with a project that spanned two of her middle-school classes. The project focused on creating a PowerPoint presentation (one class) that told the story of the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during the second World War (another class). Megan set to researching, creating a total of 15 slides that spanned the breadth and width of Adolf Hitler’s experiments and executions, and also consumed the bulk of her spring break vacation.

On the very last evening before the project was due, Megan sat down in the living room and asked if I would like to look over the finished product. As I began to peruse through the slides, she asked me if there was anything else that I thought that she should add.

Truth be told, I think that she did a fantastic job…both in terms of layout and content. Each slide told the story of a different atrocity, using facts, figures, statistics, and graphics that engaged me in a birds-eye view of one of the worst examples of human cruelty ever unleashed upon the world.

Perhaps it was the shock of seeing those figures and statistics once again; or perhaps it was just my own fatherly pride at the excellence of her work. Whatever the case, in that moment I couldn’t think of anything else to suggest that she include in order to increase the effectiveness of the presentation…and on that count, I failed.

What I should have done instead, was offer her a book.

Megan loves to read. She reads all the time. In fact, she reads so often that her love for reading has outpaced our ability to purchase new books to indulge her fascination for the written word. As a result, she is often found to be re-reading something for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 5th time.

So…in keeping with her love for reading, had I thought of it at the time, I could have offered her a book written by Philip Hallie that details the extraordinary account of a small Protestant town in a little known part of Vichy, France whose residents took upon themselves the extraordinary responsibility to save thousands of Jewish children and adults from what would otherwise have been a certain death.

Instigated by a local Presbyterian minister and his wife, the citizens of this small, rural community could not reconcile what they knew was happening under the Nazi regime with what they had been taught to believe as Christian people. While it was true that much of the grotesqueness of Nazi Germany was happening in another country, the people of Le Chambon found that the God of their conscience would not let them turn a blind eye to something that was so opposed to His Holy will.

…and so they began to act.

Over the course of just a few years, the people of Le Chambon sheltered thousands of Jewish people in their own homes. Hiding them even from investigators from the Vichy government, some would eventually be smuggled out to safe countries while others remained in the homes of these French citizens, sheltered and hidden for the duration of the war.

The book is entitled, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There. My favorite quote from the book is this: “There are many friends for the rescuers of a nation, but there do not seem to be many sympathizers for the rescuers of a few thousand desperate human beings…Their consciences told them to save as many lives as they could, even if doing this meant endangering the lives of all the villagers; and they obeyed their consciences.”

I should have offered Megan the opportunity to engage this story, and in so doing to be reminded that even in the midst of the greatest imaginable human atrocity, God was present intervening through those who would listen to protect life and offer hope when it had appeared to be all but lost. I should have offered Megan the opportunity to be inspired by those whose love for God would not allow them to sit idly by and convince themselves that they had no part to play in a tragedy that was occurring elsewhere in the world. I should have offered Megan the opportunity to experience, even vicariously, what happens when God…who never turns a blind eye to human loss and suffering…is joined by those who love Him enough to participate in His redemptive work, even should it require great personal sacrifice.

That is a narrative that is not only worth repeating, re-telling, and re-engaging…it is a narrative that is worth resurrecting. This Easter, choose to celebrate the gift of resurrection by choosing to be part of what God is resurrecting in the world today. Doing so may require that you stop turning a blind eye to what you know to be true and it will certainly require great personal sacrifice. However, if you do choose to participate in God’s resurrective work in the world, then I suspect that you will be surprised by magnitude of the change that such simple acts of love can create.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Margie Schlapbach says:

    Matt,
    This is most interesting. Yes, there were people in France and I suppose some other places; I’m not sure that kept people protected in their homes. My husband was captured in France by the German army and was held a prisoner of war during World War ll. He was at Stalag # (I can’t recall it right now) in Bad Orb, Germany. Patton’s army liberated them at the end of the war.
    I would love to read Megan’s work too. Be glad that the is a prolific reader. I taught 9th grand English and I could always tell when my students read a lot. I made a copy of your writing and I will re-read it.Naturally, I am interested in whatever I can find to read about WWll, but I haven’t read as much as I would like too.
    This is a very good article.
    I am a member of First United Methodist Church and I met you one time when we were having some lessons by your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

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