Thursday, 13 August 2015

Some lessons from the "Accountant of Auschwitz"

I just heard about the conviction of the 94 year old, former SS sergeant, Oskar Groening, who has been convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. He has been sentenced to 4 years in prison (see here).

As I thought about this person, his trial and his sentence, there were three things that struck me.

The first is this: this man was accessory to 300,000 murders yet he got four years in prison. Does that seem righteous to you? Me neither! But then what sentence could be given that would be appropriate? This man is 94 and has pretty much escaped justice in this life. What this shows us is that justice really is not and cannot be accomplished on earth. What a comfort to know that justice will be done - God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). The impossibility of real justice in this world points to a world to come. We can be glad that justice is coming for the murderers and dictators of this world, but before we get too comfortable let's remember that justice is coming for all of us. God won't draw the line where we want Him to draw it. He will judge in absolute righteousness, which means we all are condemned.

The second point: just because a crime was committed a long time ago doesn't mean the criminal should get off the hook. This man's offences were carried out over 70 years ago, but we recognise that it is still appropriate and just that he face prosecution. The reason I mention this is because when I speak to people about the need of salvation it is necessary to show them that they are guilty before God, so I show them God's law and ask them have they ever broken it, say for instance by telling a lie. Quite often the person will say something like, "Well, yes, I suppose I did tell a few lies when I was a lot younger, but I don't do it anymore." But of course, even if it's true that you haven't told a lie in a long time, it doesn't mean you should get off the hook for the lie you did tell. Groening could have said, "I haven't committed a crime in 70 years." But I don't think any of us would accept that as a legitimate defence against the demands of justice. We are responsible to God for our sins from the moment we became responsible for our actions. Time is no defence.

Thirdly: Groening could have rightly said that there were plenty of people who were worse than him. He could have pointed to the people who planned and actually carried out the gruesome murders, surely he wasn't as bad as them! This is true but irrelevant. A Judge's job is not to see how the defendant measures up against other criminals but to see how he measures up against the law. If the law has been violated then the defendant is guilty. This is obvious, but often forgotten when it comes to our accountability to God. So many people think that the fact that they aren't as bad as others means they won't be held accountable for the sins they have committed. Remember, God doesn't judge you by society's standards, He assesses you in light of His law.

So, we have broken God's law and judgment is coming. What hope is there? Well, the answer is none! There is absolutely no hope, unless...unless there is someone who is willing and able to step in and pay the penalty for us, and that is why the Gospel is such good news! It tells us there is such a person! That is why God's Son went to Calvary's cross. The Lord Jesus Christ willingly bore the punishment our sin deserves and God's justice demands, and He rose from the dead to show the price had been paid (1 Cor.15:3-4). We now have a choice, we can take what we deserve, or we can plead guilty and gratefully accept that the Lord Jesus took what we deserve. What will you do?