GOD WITH US
by Rob Weingartner
During a recent trip to Europe we visited a small museum in Colmar, France, the last pocket of land to be held by the Germans before the Allied forces pushed them back across the Rhine River, liberating France during World War II. The museum focused on the fighting that raged across the Vosges hills and the valley below. It was during one of these battles that Audie Murphy made his famous stand.
I was reminded by an object in one of the museum display cases that the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of Nazi Germany, wore belt buckles emblazoned with the words “Gott mit Uns.” That is “God with Us” in English. The phrase was commonly used by the German military going back to the Prussians in the 18th century.
Thinking about the war and the great toll it took has always left me a bit uneasy. Perhaps, in part, it is because I had relatives fighting with both the German and American armies during the war. History’s verdict on the Nazis and their “final solution” is that God was not with them. But it all leaves me wondering how I may at times in my own life seek to co-opt God into my agenda rather than seeking his Kingdom.
The Theological Declaration of Barmen, a 1934 document adopted by Christians in Nazi Germany who opposed the Deutsche Christen (German Christian) movement’s capitulation to the Nazis, affirmed: “We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.”
Yesterday in worship, our pastor reminded us that it was during the Civil War that, by action of the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, the words “In God We Trust” first appeared on the two-cent piece. One hundred years later the phrase, adopted as our nation’s motto in 1956, appeared on all U.S. coins and currency. It still does.
It has always struck me as somewhat ironic that we put the words “In God We Trust” on our money. Remember when the Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus in a discussion about taxes? Jesus took a coin, asked whose picture was on it and said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.” This was the same Jesus who told his followers, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
One of the obstacles to Christians’ effective witness to the good news of Jesus Christ is confusion about our ultimate allegiance. As the authors of Barmen described it: “We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords.”
“Gott mit Uns?” I am enough of a sinner that I need to be careful. Do I assume that God is with me in support of my program or agenda? In what, or whom, do I trust? What, or who, is at the center of my affections? How does the way I live, even how I use my money, make clear that I trust in the Lord and that God’s grace is for all peoples? With God’s help I am working on these things.