You’ve probably seen the picture. In the picture, taken at a German shipyard in 1936, hundreds of people are enthusiastically giving the Nazi salute. One man, standing at the back, has his arms crossed with a bemused look of disgust on his face. A lady claiming to be the daughter of this man identifies him as August Landmesser. Apparently, he had joined the Nazi party in 1931, hoping to get a job. He was kicked out of the party in 1935 because he fell in love with a Jewish woman. He was forbidden the opportunity to marry her because of laws passed by the German government and was later caught trying to escape. His love was put into a concentration camp, where she died. He was eventually drafted into a penal battalion in the German army where he died in battle.
Landmesser’s refusal to join in the gesture, and the subsequent story of his life, remind us that while he took the oath that Nazis had to take, he really wasn’t a Nazi at heart. A true Nazi would never have fallen in love with a Jewish woman. A true Nazi would have saluted, even if he had been kicked out of the party. A true Nazi would never have tried to escape. For not being a true Nazi during the reign of terror in Germany, Landmesser is remembered favorably by history, as well he should be. His actions spoke volumes about the kind of person he was. John reminds us that our actions speak louder than our words as he reminds us to care for others. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
John wrote at a time when persecution was running rampant against the church. He himself either was exiled already, or soon would be. Followers of Christ were persecuted might be cut off from family, they might lose their livelihood, they might be exiled, or they might even lose their lives. That often meant that their families were left behind without the physical, emotional, or financial support that their loved one had given. As a result, many believers in Christ were destitute. John was admonishing those that still had wealth, even a little bit, to share with their brothers and sisters who were going through such difficult times. They may have commiserated with those who were victimized by the persecution. They may have told them how tough they had it. But, given a chance to help them financially, they either didn’t think about it, or care enough to do that. John’s point was very simple. If you see a brother or sister in need, and you have the opportunity to help, failure to help is a sign that God’s love is not to be found in you.
In many countries, that same situation still happens: a pastor is imprisoned for seeking to share his faith and the family has no way of caring for itself. Believers in Christ lose their jobs because of their faith. In those countries, fellow believers show the love of God by helping and supporting their brothers and sisters. While there is less chance of believers becoming impoverished because of their faith here in the United State, we have many believers who are in need of help. They may have made bad choices and are living with the consequences. They may have gone through a disaster such as the hurricanes or the wildfires that have hit the country recently. Perhaps we know someone in Puerto Rico or Mexico City who is suffering because of hurricanes or earthquakes. Whatever the situation may be, if you claim to be a follower of Christ and you have the means to help, your help will show more about the love of God in you than any words you say. Prayerfully find ways to help others in need during these difficult days.
Lord, so many disasters have happened all at once in this world. Help me to find ways to help others.