“Who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?” (Adolph Hitler)
I will. Will you?
I am writing these words on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. On April 24, 1915 the Ottoman Empire rounded up the community leaders in Constantinople and executed them. Thus began a reign of terror over the oldest Christian nation in the world. (Armenia had become Christian in 301 A.D. -- a full decade before Constantine came to power in the Roman Empire.)
Over the next eight years the Ottoman Turks worked to exterminate every Christian man, woman and child within their borders. After executing the Armenian leadership, their next order was to conscript all the males between the ages of 20 and 45 for military service thus removing most able-bodied men from their families. The women, children and elderly who were left were then rounded up and sent on death marches into the Syrian Desert. Most died of starvation and dehydration along the way. Those that made it to the last stop, Der Zor, found no refugee camp there. Instead, they were butchered by ax and sword. In all, approximately 1.5 million people were killed.
The world was reluctant to acknowledge these facts (and still is). This silence enabled Adolf Hitler, a mere 16 years later, to begin his own reign of terror with the words, “I have placed my death-head formations in readiness ... with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space which we need. Who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Hitler knew that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. And repeat it we have.
The holocaust of the Jews was not the last genocide of the 20th century. While 6 million Jews were being killed in Germany, between 8 and 60 million more people were being killed by Soviet Communists. Then, Communist China killed uncounted millions more. Who can forget the killing fields of Cambodia, or the slaughter in North Korea which is still ongoing after 60 years? More recently Rwandan Hutus slaughtered 850,000 Tutsis between April 7 and July 8, 1994. Even now, we are seeing regular spectacles of mass beheadings and slaughters of Christians in the very same Syrian Desert where 1.5 million Armenians marched to their deaths.
Who can forget? We can, and we do. The numbers are simply too staggering. The methods are too gruesome. The justifications are too close to home. For, even though the whole world agrees that it is wrong to take the life of an innocent person, yet every one of these murders was justified by the rationale that not all human beings are persons.
Thanks be to God, that the Lord who created these human beings has not forgotten them. Nor has He consigned anyone to non-personhood. The Maker of human beings does not agree with the judgments of the world that some human life is unworthy of life. Rather, He stands in judgment against the world’s judgments. For God’s part, He seeks out and loves the weakest most vulnerable. Jesus demonstrates His strength and sovereignty not by destruction of the weakest and smallest, but by dying for the weak and the small. He does not finish off the helpless, but raises up the helpless.
For this reason He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. He was made Man in order to rescue man. He came that you may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). In every place and in every heart that forgets this Truth, terror reigns. After all, once human beings can be stripped of their personhood, how could I ever be certain that my own life was worthy of life?
But Christ’s own death and Christ’s bodily resurrection is your own guarantee that you are worth dying for—not because of what you have done or not done, not because of your relative usefulness to society or even to God—but because of who you are. You are created by God in the Image of God Himself. You are one for whom Christ Jesus has given His own life.
If you are rebelling against God’s Word and God’s rule because you think it takes away your dignity, think again. If you think anyone worth less because they are rebelling against God, think again. Together let us listen to the Good Shepherd and learn to see our neighbor through the eyes of God. By this Word, you come to know the Good Shepherd Who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).