Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding- Proverbs 3:5
Weekend lockdowns have been the norm for the past few months in Kerala, and that left many of us with more time in our hands than we could manage. The strict house arrest meant that there was always time to watch our favorite movies, especially those which had been on our bucket list for years. One of these was ‘Eichmann’ a historical film about Adolf Eichmann, an infamous German leader who was responsible for the execution of six million Jews during the Second World War. After the defeat of Germany, he went into hiding in South America but was captured by Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence Agency. He then faced trial in the Israeli court, and his eventual execution vindicated, to a certain extent, the cause of the millions of Jews whom Eichmann had so efficiently transported to the concentration camps for mass execution.
While watching the court trials of this mass murderer, one thing became clear from his arguments defending his role in the operations. He was acting on orders, and that, he considered, was his highest duty. The morality of the action, or any other aspect of it, took a very remote second place in his conscience, if at all it was considered. His education and training had reiterated one thing— he must be obedient to authority. It was the call of duty and it came above everything.
Though Germany and the Second World War are past history and not within our immediate span of thought and action, there are some strong parallels that we could draw from this story in many areas of our own lives. Culturally we, as Indians are prone to respect authority, accept the decisions of elders, and when this percolates into our professional lives, we are expected to abide by management decisions, no matter how unethical the action in question may be. Many youngsters climb the corporate ladder simply by compromising certain ethical values they have been nurtured in, and this is richly rewarding in terms of promotions, positions of power and monetary benefits. For the few who are brave enough to stand up for what is right, and refuse to be cajoled into following the beaten track of dishonest actions, the fight is never easy. If they come out of it unscathed, they establish a world where they set the rules and they earn incomparable respect and loyalty from seniors and peers alike.
Many times, like Eichmann, we are not even aware that we are in the wrong. This is because we consider the reasons that motivate these choices to be much more important than the act itself. Recently, a student in my college was caught for hacking into the account of his classmate, a newly married girl whose husband was posted in Dubai. The boy was able to manipulate the mail between husband and wife, and things between the couple came to a serious break -up point due to the contents in each one’s mail. The boy was finally caught red-handed and his parents were called to college. Inspite of all evidence pointing against their son, both parents categorically denied the allegations against him. In what they believed was the ultimate expression of parental love, they denied his wrongful act and even blamed the girl for malafide intentions to malign their precious offspring!
On a much larger canvass, we witness a similar situation as we read through the passion and death of Jesus Christ. During the trial of Jesus in front of Pilate, we find the entire crowd wildly shouting ‘Crucify Him’ and asking for Barabas the murderer to be released in His place. They had no answer to the question Pilate asked ’What evil has He done?’ The ‘herd’ instinct was fueling the crowds as they demanded His death. Surely there were many present that day who had witnessed His healing the blind and the lame. They had seen Lazarus being brought back to life. They had heard Him in the temple talking about love and forgiveness and they themselves had felt that there was something special about Him. And yet none of these things mattered when they clamoured for His death in the crowd. All they wanted was to be part of the majority. All they wanted was the strength of numbers. For this they proudly took complete responsibility for this dastardly act as they all shouted in unison-‘His blood be on us and our children’ (Mathew 27:25)
Today we are faced with problems of communal differences and extremist ideals. Many young and educated citizens of India are being lured into believing that they are serving their Creator by inflicting harm on targeted sections of the population. A wrongful deed can never be justified by reasons that take a moral high ground. The love and loyalty to your country or religion, your obedience to authority, family relationships or even the ‘herd’ instinct do not have any capacity to validate an act that causes harm to a fellow human being.
As we transition from the passion and death of the Lord to His glorious resurrection let us not allow any earthly persuasion to distract our unwavering focus on the path He has shown us. God’s message to humanity underlines the requirement for great restraint when we plan actions that may ultimately harm others. Whether we are on the offensive or on the defensive, the message remains unaltered- our fight can never be against our fellow human beings.
St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians warns us of where the danger actually lies and whom we should fight against. “ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Acts of offence or revenge are the winning trophies of the evil forces that twist the minds of innocent people. Those who are committed to the Lord’s way will necessarily have to recognize this and build their defense against their spiritual enemies rather than their brothers and sisters on earth.