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Catch the Vision!

The Berlin Sportpalast (Sports Palace) is packed to capacity. From thousands of voices rises a constant din. There is an air of excitement, expectancy and eagerness. People of every age and class are here, the young, the old, the middle aged, the factory worker, the office girl, the doctor, the student, the nurse and many more. In short, this is a cross section of the German people in 1933. The hall lights darken and everyone becomes silent. From the front of the Sportpalast a spot light throws a narrow beam of brilliant light down to the rear entrance. Trumpets blare as a small man with a little mustache appears. Illuminated by the spotlight he walks slowly down the aisle to mount the platform. At first, scarcely audible, one begins to hear a chant, then louder, ever louder until the whole Sports Palace thunders! “Sieg Heil!” “Sieg Heil!” “Sieg Heil!” (Hail to victory.) The people become hysterical, and some women faint. Mounting the platform, facing the endless sea of faces, the little man bows and smiles. He holds up his hand, the roof shaking. “Sieg Heil!” stops us though by magic. He begins to speak in a slow tenor voice. The treaty of Versailles is an outrage, the misery of the German people is unbearable. Germany never lost the war on the battlefield; the fatherland was stabbed in the back by the Jews and socialists. It is the Jew who is behind every plot to enslave our people. His voice slowly rises to a high pitch. Now he shouts and screams, his voice becomes hoarse and passionate. “Down with the international socialist! Down with the international bankers! Down with Soviet Russia! Down with the dirty Jew! Deutschland Erwache! (Germany wake up!)” He does not reason with them — he appeals to their hate, their desire for revenge and their national pride. But he doesn’t stop here on a negative note. Words like Fatherland, honor, loyalty, devotion, sacrifice come pouring out of his throat. Germany must resume her rightful place in the world. Only a strong Germany will be respected. He drives his points home with frantic gestures, waving his right arm, hacking the air, unconsciously and repeatedly brushing back his unruly lock of hair as he rants and raves. “Germany will awake from her long sleep and strike down all her oppressors! We are the Herren Volk! (Master race) and will take our rightful dominate place in the world! Sieg Heil!”

Hypnotized, the audience drinks in every word. What he thinks, they think, what he believes, they believe, one heart, one mind! Said one of the audience, years later, “Something I couldn’t understand swept over me — I was exalted — I gave him my soul. This was the evil genius Adolf Hitler, and the German people — caught the vision — and they gave him their soul.

Less than 600 miles away in another city, time and place, large numbers of citizens have gathered. The public hall of a certain small city is packed to capacity. Here too voices are raised, angry voices, heated arguments are heard. The city council is under attack for enforcing certain detested laws. What laws? Each family must attend church regularly except for sickness or other valid reasons. All servants and help must be sent to church whenever possible and no citizen may neglect divine worship. All children must receive instruction in catechism regularly. Taverns are to be closed during public worship. Drunkenness is forbidden. Penalties include fines, imprisonment, placement in the stocks in the public square etc. Blasphemy and cursing carry a stiffer penalty, nine days on bread and water, repeated offenders can even be whipped, and the incorrigible can be banished from the city or put to death. Nine days in Jail on bread and water for adultery, repeated offenders could be beheaded and some were. Laughing during the sermon could mean three days in jail. To make a long matter short not only were the citizens of this small city compelled to learn the Bible from cover to cover, but they were compelled to live what they were taught or else! This little city was a republic, they had elected its officials, agreed to its ordinances, and swore their allegiance to the magistrates.

Little did they suspect that the officials actually would enforce these laws, dial is some of them did not. The Libertines and Patriots confused freedom with license. Freedom to them meant, to be able to gamble, to fornicate, to drink, to engage in all the lusts of the flesh. Were they not saved by grace, so that they were no longer under the law! Away then with this legalism, how dare the authorities imprison Madame Perrin for dancing and revelry! The city of 200 were split into two factions, the Reformers seeking to establish a God-centered community and the Patriots and Libertines seeking to live the life of the flesh while paying only lip service to God. They argued back and forth. “Repeal the laws!,” cried die Libertines, “we are tired of tyranny!” “Retain the laws,” insisted the Reformers, “Honor God!” They argued back and forth, neither party giving an inch. Finally someone cried — “An appeal to arms!” Scabbards rattled, swords were drawn. Never had any session of the city council been more tumultuous, the parties weary of speaking began to appeal to arms. Suddenly out of nowhere appears a thin slight figure of a man. He is pale and one can see at a glance he is ill feeble health. He has a finely chiseled face, a well-formed mouth, pointed beard, black hair, a prominent nose, a lofty forehead and flaming eyes. Someone cries “Kill him!” he folds his arms and looks his agitators fixedly in the face. Not one of them dares lo strike him. Then advancing thru the midst of the group, he tears open his shirt exposing his boney chest and cries “If you want blood, there are still a few drops here, strike then!” Not an arm is raised. He slowly ascends the stairway to the council of 200.

The hall was on the point of being drenched with blood, swords were flashing. Now the weapons are lowered. Taking the arm of one of the councilors, he descends the stairs and cries out to the people that he wishes to address them. He speaks with feeling and love, he tells them of the eternal city whose builder and maker is God. He tells them of the mercy of God who gave his only begotten Son to die for their sins. He exhorts them to live a life of gratitude to God for all his benefits and to love their neighbors as themselves. Are we not of the household of faith, how can brother kill brother? If one cannot love his neighbor whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? The people look at one another, they blush with shame, someone starts crying, soon they are all weeping. Tears flow from their eyes, weapons are put aside, they embrace each other.

The little sickly Frenchman was John Calvin, the city — the Republic of Geneva. They caught the vision — and gave God their soul.