First They Came…


I was watching Hee Haw the other day and when I saw this skit I knew it was something I had to talk about. In the skit one man was telling his friend how he got beat up. He was slapped, punched, kicked and called names before he was let go. His friend asked him why he didn’t fight back. The answer was, get ready, he didn’t want to get involved.


How much must we tolerate before we, “Get involved?” Let me share a well know quote. It’s not certain just where or when it was first stated and it comes in a variety of forms. Here are just two. You can see how you can substitute many people and organizations but the theme remains the same. How much must we tolerate before we, “Get involved?”

First They Came…

A poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, Berlin, 1939. Niemoller was a pastor in the German Confessing Church who spent eight and one-half years in a Nazi concentration camp.


First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.


Niemoller's address to the U.S. Congress

The exact text of what Martin Niemoller said, and which appears in the Congressional Record, October 14, 1968, page 31636 is:

"When Hitler attacked the Jews
I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church --
and there was nobody left to be concerned."


In the following scriptures we are encouraged to speak up but with good sense not just for the sake of some ego satisfaction.

*   (2 Tim 2:23-26 NIV)  Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. {24} And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. {25} Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, {26} and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

*   (2 Tim 3:1-13 NIV)  But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. {2} People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- {5} having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. {6} They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, {7} always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. {8} Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth--men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. {9} But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. {10} You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, {11} persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. {12} In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, {13} while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

*   (2 Tim 2:11-16 NIV)  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; {12} if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; {13} if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. {14} Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. {15} Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. {16} Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

*   (Titus 3:9-11 NIV)  But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. {10} Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. {11} You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

*   (1 Tim 3:14-15 NIV)  Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, {15} if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

*   (Titus 1 NIV)  Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- {2} a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, {3} and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, {4} To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. {5} The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. {6} An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. {7} Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. {8} Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. {9} He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. {10} For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. {11} They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. {12} Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." {13} This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith {14} and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. {15} To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. {16} They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

*   (Titus 2:1 NIV)  You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.


Are these instructions applicable only in church? Are they intended only for correction of Christians? Do they not apply to all people? Doesn’t the entire world kneed to know the truth? Isn’t it truth that sets us free?

*   (John 8:32 NIV)  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.


How much more freedom must be lost before we decide to stand up? Here is another quotation you may be familiar with. “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything!” Discipleship is more than singing songs, reading scriptures, listening to sermons, or even praying. But ultimately we must be men of action. We must talk the talk and walk the walk.


We must stand for the word of God and its application equitably to all men. If we don’t someday that last line may apply to us.


Then they came for me-- and there was no one left to speak out for me.