“Just Following Orders…”

There’s a new book out detailing the capture and subsequent trial of the Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann. In case you’re a little hazy about this episode in history, Eichmann was the officer in charge of facilitating and managing the mass deportation of Jews to extermination camps during World War II. After the war, he eventually made his way to Argentina where he lived in safety & obscurity for nearly fifteen years before Israeli intelligence agents captured him and whisked him back to Israel to face trial.

In court, Eichmann’s whole defense essentially boiled down to this: “I had no choice. I was just following orders from my commanders.” It was really a ridiculous defense (even if it hadn’t been a complete lie). He had plenty of choices, ranging from: simply leaving the Nazi party, to fleeing Germany, to actively resisting, to even laying down his own life. Quite simply, he chose to collaborate with evil rather than stand up to it, most likely because he found it easier (or more lucrative) at the time. Not surprisingly, the Israeli court didn’t buy his “pass the buck” defense and eventually made him the guest of honor at an “Old West Necktie Party”.

Though we may not be guilty of crimes on par with those of Eichmann, we essentially use his same defense plea when trying to explain away our sinful behaviors: “I can’t help it. I’m just doing what comes naturally.” In effect, we say that our sinful desires are in charge and we have no choice but to follow their commands. So if we sleep around, our defense is that “Hey, it’s a natural desire. I’m just doing what my body leads [commands] me to do.” If we gossip against others and then get confronted about it, we pass the blame by shrugging and saying “Well, you know how I am. I say things without thinking” [which is another way of saying, “My mouth is in command and I’m helpless to stop it.”].

Our excuses are as lame as Eichmann’s defense. Sure temptation & sinful desires may be powerful, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist them (or flee them). We have a choice between collaboration with sin or utter defiance of it. Peter says:

1PE 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith…

We can be like Eichmann and follow every order from the “commanding officer” known as sin or be like Peter and oppose sin at every turn. Obviously, Christians are called to be members of a resistance movement against sin, not collaborators. We may not always be successful in every mission, but we should never go down without a fight.


Eron Elswick

Worship – Grow – Serve


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