Jens Reich was an East German biologist, and a very unlikely revolutionary. He was a leader in that amazing, almost mind-boggling change that happened in Germany decades ago, just as all of the communist empire seemed to be falling apart. His story was told to Newsweek Magazine, where he said, "I was always sympathizing with people, and watching, and going to church to talk with others. But I wasn't speaking out."
Dr. Reich had not joined the communist party, and because of that authorities wouldn't allow him any promotions, even though he deserved them. Finally, on September 17, 1989, he and 30 other intellectuals founded a group called New Forum, and they helped organize these mass demonstrations in East Germany. Pretty daring. In less than two months, the Berlin Wall was coming down. He said, "You don't need courage to speak out against a régime. You just need to not care anymore; not to care about being punished or beaten … We finally reached the point where enough people just didn't care anymore what would happen if they spoke out.”
Our word for today from the Word of God is John 19:38. It's right after the death of Jesus on the cross for us, and Joseph of Arimathea goes to the Roman Governor, Pilate. It says: "Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now, Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission he came and took the body away." Well we know from that point on he's going to be forever publicly identified with Jesus Christ.
See, I believe what happened was this: he saw what Jesus did on the cross, and it made him come out of hiding. Now he goes public for Christ, and everyone's going to always know that Jesus was buried in the tomb of a man who once was his secret disciple. This is a man who stopped caring about what people thought. Why is it there are so many Christians right now making so little difference? Could it be we're intimidated by what others will think of us if we clearly, openly, publicly stand for Christ?
And that fear keeps us from giving people the key to everything they're looking for. There's a wall between God and us called sin. Jesus died to remove it, and it comes down when you pin all your hopes on Him. The One who walked out of His grave on resurrection morning. All His peace, all His love and all His power become yours at that point. But we're afraid to tell them that. It's like Scripture says in Proverbs 29:25, "The fear of man brings a snare." We're literally tangled up in this fear of what might happen to us if we give them the message their eternity depends on.
Dr. Reich in East Germany said, "We finally reached the point where we just didn't care anymore what would happen if we spoke out." Are you getting tired of your own cowardice? Of your silence? Ask the Lord to give you courage to jump over that obstacle once and for all, "Lord, make me care about them, and stop caring about what they'll think about me." Someone wisely has said, "Courage is not the absence of fear. It's the disregard of it." Yeah, I'm scared, but I'm going in anyway.
Christ hung exposed on a cross for you. I guess that's what melted Joseph's fear. If He can do that, surely I can pay much less of a price for Him and at least go public. Seeing Jesus on the cross set Joseph free to be Jesus' follower no matter who knew or what they thought of Him. Is that where you are? "Lord, I'm tired of holding back. I don't care anymore what would happen if I spoke out." I care about what will happen to them if I don't.
If you can get to that point, that's powerful stuff … powerful enough to make walls come down.
© Ronald P. Hutchcraft 2021