Fritz Sauckel is a man who was convicted of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trial and died by hanging in 1946. He died because humanity condemned his actions in organizing what was essentially slave labour and for his role in the evils of Nazi Germany during the coruse of World War II. He was a man that did evil in the sight of both humanity and history. Why is it, you might ask, that I bring up this man in a discussion of grace, I bring him up because he has shown me something that has truly torn me to the core of how I have considered myself to be Christian:
I am ashamed of the gospel of Christ,
even though it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.
Why is it that I say that I am ashamed of the very thing that I beleive has given me life and breath and purpose? It is because this man, Fritz Sauckel, a Nazi, a man who forced slave labour, a man who helped the government of Hitler function, and a person who humanity has deemed too evil to live for his crimes against humanity, is my brother in Christ.
Grace truly is a scandal; the gospel is a scandal. It refuses to make sense we want it to and it reaches far further than any human could possibly want or imagine. Sauckel and several others like him are by far the strongest examples that I’ve seen of this. People who the world condemned as among the most evil in all of history, I will see in heaven. And I am ashamed of the gospel of Christ because the more I thought about this the more I realized how much I would have refused him the message of the gospel, the message of hope in Christ, because of that very evil that has condemned him to death in the eyes of the law of this world. This, dear readers, is not the gospel because the gospel is for every person because Christ died so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.
However, in the story of those new Christians who were killed in the Nuremberg trials, we find a true example of grace and mercy in the minister to those men: Henry Gerecke, a Lutheran chaplain. He was a man who had his family deeply injured by the horrors of war, who had seen the results of the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp, and he was a man who, when given the opportunity to return home, rejected return for a ministry with some of humanity’s most visibily depraved people. What stopped him from returning home was a passion for the truth of the gospel and a recognition of its necessity for all people.
I’ve known of this story for several months now, but only recently have I realized that should I have been given the same opportunity I would have readily left for home; I would have opted to let someone else minister to those men whom the world hated. I wouldn’t have shared the only source of life with those whom I determined to be of less worth to humanity. This is why I am ashamed of the gospel of Christ; where I talk of its transformative power, of undeserved merit in the sight of God, of the gospel as the origin of all hope, and of its power to bring us into communion once more with God, I would have still rejected the opportunity to share a source of life because these men did what was right in their own eyes. It is humbling to be shown hypocracy, more still to know that such an attitude can still carry over to how I interact with others in my current life. Do I show compassion and mercy to those who have wronged me, do I care for the poor, do I earnestly believe the gospel is the highest medicine to those in the depths of depression? I suppose I should say no, I don’t, regardless of what my words may say.
Who Gerecke was is of little consequence because he is merely a servant, a man who heard the call of God and went. It is now my hope and prayer, after realizing the greatness of my hypocracy, after being convicted of my own deep broknness, that I can always hold the gospel with the highest regard knowing that it is medicine to the sick, life to the dead, and freedom to the condemned. May God bring me ever closer to the likeness of Christ in mercy, in compassion, and in love for others carrying always the message of the gospel, the greatest news that has been given to us on this earth.
Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Thanks be to God, for Christ’s gospel of grace has saved me a sinner.