Last semester my daughter was assigned The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Per a resolution to read everything she’s reading, I ordered a copy. (I was more of a Cliff Notes guy in high school so I’m making up for lost books.) It’s an incredible story of faith, courage and resistance.
During the Nazi occupation of Belgium, Corrie and her family operated a safe house for Jews. They created a hiding place in one of the bedrooms and would house those in danger of capture. Eventually they were captured themselves and sent to concentration camps in Germany. Corrie survived but her father and sister died in the camps.
One of the parts of the book that struck me was Corrie’s angst over the decision to sin. Early in the occupation she realized that in order to protect others she might have to lie, steal or possibly murder. She never had to do the last one but the others became part of her daily existence. She stole food ration cards in order to secure passage to other safe houses and routinely lied to cover up her good deeds.
It brought about this question. Would I have the courage to sin in order to protect the vunerable? Corrie and her family were not Jewish. They were not targeted by the Nazis. If they had kept quiet and followed the laws they would have never run afoul of the Germans. But they couldn’t sit still while the innocent suffered. They consciously chose to sin in order to combat a much greater sin.
It brings up some interesting questions concerning the letter of the law vs the spirit of the law. Is it ever right to lie? Or steal? Or kill? Dietrich Bonhoeffer faced the same moral dilemma when he plotted to assassinate Hilter. At what point can a moral person knowingly commit sin for the greater moral good? Or is it even considered sin at that point?
So many questions that I don’t have easy answers for, but this one bothers me the most. Would I have the courage to do it? Would I be willing to risk everything to save others? Would I defy the laws of my government in order to protect the innocent? Or would I stay quiet, keep to myself and mind my own business (like the majority of citizens during the rise of Nazism).