It may seem strange to think of Wii bowling when visiting the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, but that’s what happened to me last month. Dachau is one of the camps where the Nazis in the 1930s and ‘40s imprisoned, tortured and killed many. Wii bowling is a video game. Around 10 years ago I was playing Wii bowling at some friends’ house. I was watching the TV and not my hand as I made the motion of throwing a bowling ball, while using a remote. I didn’t see the little girl as she stepped in front of my hand just as my arm was going forward. My hand with the remote in it hit her right on the side of the head. She started to cry and bleed a little bit, and I felt terrible.
After some tears and a wet cloth and some kisses and hugs from her mom, she was okay and back to smiling and playing. It didn’t go quite so easy for me. The others who were there that night said Sierra would recover much quicker than I would from the incident, and they were right. I never played Wii bowling again, and I don’t expect I ever will. It’ll just bring back bad memories of me causing pain to sweet little Sierra.
When I was at Dachau I thought of how terrible it felt to cause pain to that little girl and I wondered: how in the world could those people who ran this prison inflict such horrendous pain on so many other human beings? It seems inconceivable, and yet it happened. The human heart, when it wanders far from God, is capable of all kinds of wickedness. Sadly, evil can get such a hold on a person that inflicting pain on others no longer bothers them. In some sick way they enjoy it.
I remembered Dachau when reading the tragic news of what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. People calling themselves white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched and spewed forth hateful rhetoric. It appears one of the neo-Nazis purposefully drove a car into a crowd of people who opposed them, killing one person and injuring others. You go to Dachau, you read of what the Nazis did, and you shudder to think that anyone would want to be a neo-Nazi.
I also shudder when groups like white supremacists claim to be Christian. One of the first key issues the New Testament church had to deal with was the Jews feeling superior to the non-Jews and believing God only cared about them. The Holy Spirit did a powerful work to make it convincingly clear to the leaders of the early church that God loves every human being equally. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. He wants each person to come to faith in Him, no matter the color of their skin or their ethnic origin. Peter declared in Acts 10:34: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” It is totally contrary to the message of Christ to say one race is more favored by God than others.
It is also totally contrary to the way Jesus does things to believe it is okay to use violence on those with whom you differ. Jesus wants to heal, not hurt. He wants to build up people, not tear them down. He is such a beautiful contrast to the harsh, nasty, violent spirit that seems to be so prevalent in our day. In Matthew 12 it says of Him: “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break.” A bruised reed symbolizes a person who is hurting and struggling, bruised by the trials of life. Jesus is gentle with that kind of person. He wants to lovingly and carefully heal their wounded soul.
The world thinks, if you’re attacked, hitting them back harder than they hit you is a sign of strength. It isn’t. Treating each person with respect and as valuable, no matter who they are; choosing humble service over revenge and gentleness over violence: that’s true strength.