The question moves many who assume that there is a living God: Will HE, by whom we are all going to be held accountable, judge Germany once again for the inconceivably horrible things done to the Jewish people in the Shoah?
This is also on the mind of my friend, to whose mail I tried to find an answer with the articles about reparations and the “Mercy of the Holocaust”. He personally assumes “that there is still something open before God for our country,” and argues “that Germany as a whole has not repented sufficiently.”
Talking about judgment shows that we take God seriously.
First of all, I think it’s good that we are talking about this issue. It shows that we take the living God and His Word seriously; that we do not simply expect Him to subordinate Himself to our modern-humanistic or even post-modern expectations and feelings, as if they were authoritative.
The Bible is clear in its statement that the Creator of heaven and earth takes us humans seriously as counterparts. Specifically, this means that He will judge us as individuals, but also as a collective. Each of us must “be made manifest before the judgment seat of God” – and God will judge the nations.
Then, however, it would be important that we put our images of God to the test that we consciously or unconsciously cultivated. Not least for this reason, an open exchange on this topic is important.
Do we have the God of the Bible before our eyes?
The God of the Bible is neither Zeus nor Jupiter, who flips out and throws lightning or hail around when something does not go according to his idea. He is also not Odin, who thunders with a rumble when he feels forgotten. And certainly not Hermes or Pan, who sulkily retreats when someone does not dance to his flute.
Even though that should hurt: We should recognize and name our pagan concepts of God as such. God is not a hungry dragon that needs to be fed with sacrifices or satisfied by “sufficient repentance.” Not every detail of medieval depictions of hell or the last judgment is biblical.
In the Bible, the Creator of the universe reveals Himself as the Father of Israel. He makes history with this world, feels the groaning of His creatures and works on an answer to the eager hope of creation.
The Bible testifies that He Himself suffers most of all the consequences of people’s rebellion against Him – but nevertheless with great certainty holds out the prospect of a new heaven and a new earth in which there will be no more suffering and no more crying, no more war and no more death. To achieve this goal, no sacrifice is too great for Him, no pain too painful. HE will wipe away every tear.
Not every painful experience is God’s judgment.
Many a disease, many a war and even environmental catastrophes may simply be the consequence of irresponsible actions or even open rebellion of creatures against the Creator and His orders.
When Psalm 8 sings about the Lord making man only “a little lower than God”, “crowning him with honor and nobility”, “making him ruler” over the work of His hands and “putting everything (!) under his feet”, this testifies to a breathtaking confidence of the living God in the creature HE created in His image, in His likeness and appointed as His representative in this world. But then this also points to a rarely mentioned responsibility that is imposed on us as human beings.
Anti-Semitism is an existential threat for every anti-Semite.
The state of German cities in 1945, as well as the development of Germany’s borders, is – from the point of view of the Holy Scriptures – simply a logical and foretold consequence of the fact that an entire nation had set its sights on the annihilation of the Jewish people.
So far it has always been like this: Whether judeophobia is expressed as anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, or anti-Zionism, ultimately this plague destroys the one who harbors it. It has never even come close to endangering the existence of the people of Israel. Without exception – to remain in the biblical image – it was ultimately Haman who hung on the gallows that he had erected for Mordecai. I would like to shout this simple causal connection into our world for everyone to hear and to understand.
A crime against the glorious presence of God
From the point of view of the Bible, however, what is the most terrible about Germany’s actions in the first half of the 20th century is not the crimes against humanity committed during World War II and especially in the Holocaust, but the crime against God Himself. With the experiment of a “final solution of the Jewish question” we Germans have transgressed against the glorious presence of the one, true, and only living God.
The fact that this is so rarely put into words does not help to close a chapter, neither does it remove the unambiguous statements of Scripture. The consequences of this spiritual dimension of the German crimes can probably only be judged at a greater distance. Blindness, deafness and in general an inability to be spiritually sensitive are definitely part of it.
Whether God will judge that…???
…I do not know. But I hope and wish for it!
When the Creator, whom the Bible reveals to us, judges, it always means an opportunity. This is shown by all the accounts of judgment, beginning with the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, which aimed at “guarding the way to the tree of life”, i.e., to keep it open; further in the story about the catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah, before which the Lord entered into a truly oriental horse-trading with Abraham; up to the announcement of judgment for Nineveh, where God accepted the risk that He Himself and His prophet were seen as making false predictions.
Throughout Scripture, it is clear that the Heavenly Father does not take pleasure in the death of the one who misses the mark. Whosoever the living God loves, He corrects. And then this disciplining is always good – even if it should be terribly painful.
Judgment is grace, because it is not primarily aimed at execution, but at giving a new direction, aligning, and straightening up. King David had already recognized that. When confronted with the inevitable consequences of his actions, he asked to be allowed to fall into the hands of the living God.
More horrible than judgement
Incomparably worse than God’s judging attention is when He turns away, hides His face, when He “gives [someone] up” – as described in the second half of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.
If human beings are not able to use their wealth of talents, money, time and freedom in any meaningful way, either for themselves or for others, it can be more terrible than God’s judgment.
Just imagine what it could mean that Germans who truly yearn to be pacifist and do no harm to anybody, one day will have to discover that the money they spent for development aid all over the globe supported cruelly corrupt power brokers and financed terrorism; if they are confronted all at a sudden with the fact, that having a not really functional army was not enough, but being one of the biggest producers and exporters of armament placed them among those who are chiefly responsible for the suppression, suffering and murdering of millions around the world.
Consider what the billions Germany collects in inheritance tax each year attest to. How many fates of destitute, desperate people are hidden behind this, who have to leave this world with fat pension funds – the Bible speaks of “full barns” – and never had the privilege to make others happy with their wealth.
Prosperity can be a curse and judgment is grace. This was clearly in front of my eyes when I was privileged to share a glance into the heart of a desperate father. He was on his knees before our Heavenly Father, fighting for his child. In doing so, his biggest concern was: “And what if the prodigal son has so much money that he will never end up with the pigs?”