Explaining The Darkness: We’re More Like Nazis Than We Want To Admit

Oma and Opa, which is German for Grandma and Grampa, were born in Germany and moved to America after World War 2. Opa fought on the Russian front in the war. As a kid, I told some of my friends, and they jokingly called me a Nazi, so I quit telling them. The Nazis and Adolf Hitler have become the poster children for evil, and I wanted to distance my association to them even if Opa wasn’t involved in their atrocities.

But Tim Keller argues that it’s unwise to create too much distance from the Nazis. Listen to what he wrote in his book, Encounters With Jesus:

You can choose to say that Nazis were subhuman, that they were nothing like us, and that we are not capable of doing what they did…[But] it would actually be more honest to say, “I’m somehow the same as those who have done terrible things. I am made of the same human stuff. There must be something down deep in me that is capable of great cruelty and selfishness, and I don’t want to see it.”

Take a minute to think about that. You and I share the same humanity with Adolf Hitler, Ted Bundy, the September 11th hijackers as well as with every child abductor, pedophile, and murderer. Every one of them was once a precious child just like my nieces and nephews. Are you willing to be honest with yourself about these implications?

“I’m somehow the same as those who have done terrible things. I am made of the same human stuff. There must be something down deep in me that is capable of great cruelty and selfishness, and I don’t want to see it.”

Last week I ended by asking “How can this darkness and beauty coexist?” If everyone share’s our humanity with the likes of the Nazis, then the darkness makes sense. If everyone is capable of great cruelty and selfishness, then there will be times when people act cruelly and selfishly. Sometimes those actions cause minimal damage, but sometimes they wreak havoc on the world. With 7 billion people, it’s no wonder that the world is full of suffering. 

The Bible articulates this by saying that we are all sinful. Listen to the words of Jesus, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” Luke 18:19

If all of us are born with this capacity for evil, what hope is there for humanity? What hope is there to rid the world of pain and suffering? I’ve yet to hear a compelling answer outside of Christianity. But for Christians the answer isn’t just an idea or strategy, the answer is the person of Jesus. He is our savior who brings hope to a dying world and offers new life that puts to death that within us which is capable of great cruelty and selfishness. Hitler needed a savior, but so do we. 

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