All Have Sinned and Fall Short

All Have Sinned and Fall Short, an Unpopular Message

I don’t like to hear ‘all have sinned and fall short.’ I prefer clear cut good guys and bad guys. Since Das Boot and Cross of Iron hit the cinemas in the 80s, the movie industry occasionally makes an effort to give the German perspective of World War II. Recently Valkyrie and the Boy in the Striped Pajamas have also shown further complexity. Even after seeing these movies, I cling to a tendency to view the allied victors as the guys in the white hats and the Germans as evil. Many believe that most Germans were Nazis. They weren’t. Even when the Germans elected Hitler, he did not carry the majority of the votes during the free election (37.4 percent, according to MacDonogh)

After the War no Parties for the Losers

I’m in the process of reading, After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles MacDonogh. It is a real eye opener, especially seeing how the Czechs behaved. Their vengeful blood lust, rape, torture, and pillage turned against children, women, and elderly Germans citizens. Victims included ardent anti-Nazis. The only thing missing? A guillotine. As some Germans risked their lives to protect Jews, some Czechs risked their lives to protect Germans, but I will never view Prague the same way again after reading this book. Still one of my favorite cities, but I feel much less romantic about it. I don’t blame the Czechs. The horror just jolts me into reality. I momentarily forgot that like me all have sinned and fall short.

Read the book, you will find crimes committed by all of the occupying forces. While not on the scale of efficiency or numbers killed by the enemy, the atrocities still horrify me, empty of justice, mercy, compassion, and understanding. It starkly reminds me that victors seldom possess clean hands; all have sinned and fall short.

Lazy Thinking

When lazy in my thinking, I forget the nature of man. I think ‘people are basically good,’ as long as they are basically like me. Others? Well maybe not. Romans 3:23 reminds me that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’

Early in MacDonogh’s book he quotes novelist Heinrich Boll in his novel Kreuz ohne Liebe who recognized this problem as well. The character, anti-Nazi, Chistoph Bachem, says, ‘I want no more. It is horrible to have been a soldier in a war for six years and always to have had to wish that it would be lost; to see the collapse, and at the same time to know that whatever power succeeds it, and kicks the daylights out of the corpse of this state, will quite probably be equally diabolic; the devil possesses all the power in this world, and a change of power is only a change of rank among devils.’ Bachem is completely nihilistic and sees only the problem without hope.

The point of this post is not to point fingers or lay blame. As I write this I sit about 50 miles from one of the original concentration camps of the Civil War in Salisbury, NC. A place so horrid and infamous that I don’t know if anyone could find the original site today. And Andersonville, one of the most infamous, is half a day’s drive way. I write this because, in God’s eyes, no good guys exist. ‘all have sinned and fall short.’

We All Need a Savior

Human good cannot save us or balance out all the evil which has been committed.

What good we do individually cannot erase the separation from God caused by the few or many sins we have committed.

If you don’t go to church or care about Christianity, I encourage you to read the Gospel of John and get introduced to Jesus. Pray to him, ask him to reveal himself to you. Ask him if he is real. Then read the Gospel of John again and see what he says.

If you do go to church and it has turned into a cult of human goodness, middle class morality, nationalism, and family values; it is time for you to get to know Jesus. None of these things is bad and all have tangible benefits, but of themselves they make a poor substitute for Jesus. Follow the prescription above. If you can’t find Jesus in your church, pray that he will help you find a community of believers interested in following him. A sure indicator that you need to move on is if it is a place where you never hear that all have sinned and fall short.

Originally Published:May 21, 2013

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