As we pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” I ask you to allow God to light a flame in your heart. Abraham, our model of faith, went to rescue a people who were being held captive by a merciless enemy (see Genesis 14:11-16). The text speaks to us of “ruthless conquerors who took everything for themselves.” But one survivor, a victim, fell at Abraham’s feet and forced him to make a decision.
No matter where you are, those who suffer are knocking at the door of the church. There is a modern Church that has chosen to be blind to the suffering that surrounds it. This indifference is an affront to the very nature of God. This Church is obsessed with its own blessings, needs, worship, services, theology and experiences with God, and has a strong tendency to remain “among our own, among Christians.”
In one of his books, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, told this story that shook me profoundly because it is a true picture of the modern Church. Bonhoeffer was a pastor during the Second World War, at a time when the Nazi holocaust took the lives of six million Jews. History shows that most of the German pastors and priests tolerated or tried to ignore the Nazi insanity and murderous racism that eventually led to the genocide. The Church finally woke up when it was too late. Pastor Bonhoeffer spoke out against the regime of the Third Reich, was thrown into prison, and ultimately was put to death for his courage and convictions.
Bonhoeffer wrote of a conversation he had with a fellow pastor shortly before he was arrested. The pastor confided in him, “It was horrible. Our church is right beside the railway tracks. We can hear the trains going by carrying Jews toward the camps. At first it was rare, but now they go by several times a day. One Sunday several weeks ago, something terribly embarrassing happened. We were right in the middle of our service and the noise from the trains was deafening. Then, just as we were singing worship songs, we heard people crying out, ‘Help us! Help us!’”
Bonhoeffer, horrified, asked him, “Well, what did you do?” The pastor answered, “For a moment I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I told the church congregation, ‘Brothers and sisters, let’s sing louder!’”
Are we, too, “singing louder” so we won’t hear the cries for help so near to us?
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.