Niemöller's famous words are always haunting and powerful.
THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
We were discussing Galatians tonight in a Bible Study I am in. We were talking about Paul's willingness to speak up against wrongs being committed (in Galatia's case, the division being created by the legalistic “Judaizers”). Given Paul's status as an elite Jew, he could have overlooked and even benefitted from the division, but the Gospel called him to a higher standard.
More apropos to the poem, the Confessing Church members in Germany also spoke up and rejected the evil of the Third Reich and what it was doing to Jews and other minorities. They could have towed the party line and lived comfortably while others suffered, but they too were called to integrity to the Gospel.
The truth always calls us to that sort of higher standard. The Gospel is not just about heaven, it is about the restoration of all things through Christ. How often as the Church do we earnestly seek to be on the front line loving justice and showing mercy? How often do we accept that the troubles of those around us are burdens that concern us?
If “they” came again today, would we do any better than the person in the poem?