Adolf Hitler headed the mass murder of millions of Jews, of those who were mentally or physically disabled, of gypsies, of homosexuals, of the homeless and of others he deemed as "inferior" or a threat to the German Aryan race. If anyone tried to oppose him, he immediately ordered for them to be killed, tortured, or experimented on. His growing number of followers, however, disturbingly lauded his mesmerizing laudatory skills and were inspired by his leadership. Although the majority followed his lead, there were a significant few who dissented to his hateful condemnation of others.
I call this inspiring minority- the nameless heroes.
I recently took a group of students to the Museum of Tolerance. One of the exhibits displayed numerous plaques of people who courageously defended, sheltered, and even laid down their own lives for the many men and women who were being discriminated against under the Nazi regime. These plaques revealed their inspiring acts of charity without disclosing the names of those who had done them. Why? The tour guide expressed that excluding their names was intentional, because it is their selfless actions that they wanted to commemorate and celebrate. The people who acted courageously to save and defend the life of another did not do so to be praised and named, but acted out of compassion for their neighbor without any expectation of reward. Furthermore, these nameless heroes were often killed and tortured themselves for helping Jews and those who did not fit the ideal Aryan race.
Be not Afraid!
In Matthew 14:27, Jesus tells His frightened disciples in a middle of a storm, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
During times of turbulence, unrest and conflict in our lives, is this not what Jesus would say to us? Is this not what Jesus would say to you?
The nameless heroes were no different than the majority that blindly and fearfully followed Adolf Hitler. I'm sure they, too, were afraid to disobey the Nazi regime. I'm sure they, too, were thinking about their families and wondered what would happen to them if they spoke up. I imagine the great anxiety a lot of these nameless heroes had as they saw the truth behind the horrendous lies Hitler was spreading about the Jews, but felt conflicted as they pondered risking their own lives to do something about it. I envision their lonely nights of prayer as they fervently asked God what they should do when in the depths of their hearts, they already knew where God was leading them. The suffering and injustice they could not ignore was God knocking at their door, asking them to respond to His call.
What makes the nameless heroes heroes is that they responded to God's call to compassion. Truly, God was knocking on the door of everyone's heart- not just the Christians, not just the Muslims or other religious men and women, not just those who had no families to take care of, not just the rich, etc. He was calling everyone to take a stand against the hate, deceit, and cruelty of the Nazi regime. The nameless heroes were the minority who chose to open that door and let God lead. They knew God was knocking, and He was telling them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Is God knocking on your door? What has He been trying to tell you? What are you afraid of? Can you trust that He is with you? Can you have faith that He will guide you every step of the way? Take a moment to share your current fears and anxieties with Him.
Crucifixion did not have the last word
In the face of opposition and in the face of evil, Jesus did not succumb to or become overwhelmed by the hatred around him. His persecutors in the eyes of the world were "winning." They got one of His followers to betray Him; they got Him arrested; they got to mock and humiliate Him publicly, strip Him naked, torture Him, spit on Him, and kill Him.
The nameless heroes during the World War II era could expect nothing less than punishment and death for choosing to show mercy and compassion to minorities- the Jews, the disabled, the homeless, and all those Hitler viewed as the "other."
Why did Jesus, the Son of God, freely choose to undergo the suffering and abuse He experienced in His Crucifixion? Why did these nameless heroes knowingly choose to sacrifice or risk their very lives to help those who were being unjustly persecuted against?
Jesus and these nameless heroes willingly sacrificed and risked their lives. Why? For love of the "other."
In John 15:13, it is written, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
Jesus and these nameless heroes chose love in the midst of their fear and in the midst of cruel persecution from others. They chose to answer violence and hate with love through both their actions and theirs words. When they saw the unjust treatment of others, they chose not to ignore it. They chose not to give in to their fears. They saw in the "other" themselves. The nameless heroes knew that they could have easily been the targeted group, and if they were in the same position as the Jews, they would have wanted someone to stand up, speak out, defend and protect them.
More importantly, they knew that the most powerful weapon against hate, destruction, and evil is LOVE.
Love that chooses to serve others. Love that seeks to build others up instead of break them down. Love that patiently listens and tries to understand the other. Love that shows compassion to those who are suffering. Love that is focused on others and not on one's selfish desires. Love that speaks with kindness. Love that is merciful to those in need of forgiveness. Love that does not discriminate. Love that does not see "others" but instead, see brothers and sisters. LOVE!
Yes, Jesus died an excruciatingly painful and humiliating death, but He rose again! His Resurrection had the last word!
There is a reason why we call the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Good News! Because, indeed, it is- Good news! Jesus conquered death through His Resurrection, and He conquered evil and hate with love.
The nameless heroes who risked their lives to help Jews and other persecuted minority groups
knew that this life was not the end, that there was something more valuable at stake, that their souls could not stand back and watch their fellow Jewish brothers and sisters be murdered and that their choice to love would and did make a difference.
Several Jewish men and women were saved by the loving actions of these nameless heroes. They embodied Christ in the midst of the storm. They revealed love to those who were being viewed by society as subhuman. They inspired others to follow their example of selflessly helping those that were being treated unjustly. Their loving actions made a powerful statement to the corrupt administration of their day.
Furthermore, their courageous acts of charity did not go unnoticed- the people they helped on earth will never forget their sacrifice, and their loving and merciful Father above is waiting to embrace them. They are storing up rewards in Heaven that can never be taken away from them!
Who are the minority groups of today? Who do you notice is being treated unjustly? How may God be calling you to help them?
May we follow the footsteps of the nameless heroes who chose to answer hate with the selfless love of our Crucified Christ!