THE CHRISTIAN LIFE A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY

"But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king-Jesus." (Acts 17:5-7)

Recently, I watched an interview with Jurgen Wittenstein, the last surviving member of a small group of students (plus one or two professors) at the University of Munich in Germany during WWII who actively opposed the Nazis. They carried on a campaign to inform the German people of the terrible crimes that the regime had committed and of the destruction that should soon be visited upon Germany if they did not overthrow Hitler and his henchmen.

The White Rose group was mainly composed of medical students, some of whom had served on the eastern front and had witnessed first-hand the atrocities being committed against the Jews and against the general populations of the occupied countries. Several of the White Rose group had also been leaders in the Hitler Youth organization and had sterling backgrounds and credentials as far as the Nazi state was concerned - until they learned the truth about Nazi policies. What is crucial to understand here is that the Nazi state enjoyed widespread support among the general population. Yes, there were some, particularly in certain elements of the German army, who were plotting to overthrow Hitler and there was a minority of the general populace that had disapproved of Nazism from the start or had grown disillusioned, especially after the war bogged down in Russia.

This being the case, it was not fear alone that kept the Nazi regime in power. It was also a sense of patriotism and national pride, as well as the early successes of Hitler in overcoming the reverses Germany suffered in WWI that wed the German people to their "Fuehrer". To oppose Hitler in any way would invite condemnation from the majority of Germans. To be fair, the same could be said of the Russian people, whose leader, Stalin, was also a blood-thirsty tyrant of the first order but enjoyed great popular support during WWII, and after.

So when the White Rose group launched its efforts to inform the German public they were facing a very uphill battle. Their last effort, before they were discovered, was to print leaflets and mail them to large numbers of Germans in various cities. This greatly alarmed Hitler and the Gestapo was set to work to find these "criminals." Finally, the students made a mistake. They tossed hundreds of leaflets from the upper floor landing inside one of the classroom buildings when the halls were empty during lectures. One of them, Sophie Scholl, saw a few leaflets left on the landing and tossed them over the side of the railing. As she did so, a janitor saw her and reported her to the police. From there, the Gestapo took over and Sophie, her brother, Hans, and four other White Rose participants were arrested, tried and executed by guillotine. Others were also sentenced, some to long prison terms and others to death, but the victory of the Allies spared them. Most of the White Rose group were in their early to mid twenties. When Sophie was leaving the courtroom to the place of execution, her mother said, "Sophie… Remember Jesus!" Sophie replied, "You, too!"

What does this have to do with the Christian life being a subversive activity? Actually, most of the White Rose group were Christians, and acted under Christian convictions. Hitler was an agent of Satan and his movement and government was, ultimately, a product of hell. But you don't have to live under a totalitarian regime to observe the tyranny of Satan. The Apostle John wrote, "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 5:19). I am afraid that we Christians have forgotten that following Jesus faithfully is going to stir up opposition from Satan, using people who are ignorant of his wicked tyranny over their lives and the vast damage he is doing to them and all humankind.

We seem to be engaged, all too often, in a popularity contest with one segment of society or another. Some Christians seek to blend in with the political right, others with the left, others with youth culture, and others with popular fashions and philosophies of one kind or another. There is a part of this that flows from a legitimate concern to, as Paul put it, to be "all things to all people so that by all means I may save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22) But there is also the natural desire to be popular and to blend in and we must guard against it. After all, our king is Jesus and we represent His government and His culture which will, in the end, supplant all others. (Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Matthew 13:31-33; 28:18-20)

Jesus laid great stress upon the fact that His disciples should expect to be persecuted. At the very least, we should expect to be misunderstood and criticized. The early Christians were accused of being "atheists" because they rejected the Roman gods and of being "cannibals" because they were said to eat babies during their worship. Nero could plausibly accuse them of setting fire to Rome because they were so despised by the general public. After all, did they not teach that the world would be destroyed by fire!?

The thing we must always keep in mind is that our mission is not to please the world but to please our Savior. Sometimes this will win us laurels and sometimes it will bring us condemnation. Jesus said some would kill His followers, thinking by so doing that they were rendering God a service. Yes, we should be winsome, gracious, and frame our message so that the world will understand it but if the world, or some part of it, still doesn't like our message we must stick by it and live according to it. This is not only to be faithful to Christ but also because we love our enemies, who may, in time, believe in Him as we do because we were faithful.