It was on this day, in 1945, that U.S. forces under the command of General George S. Patton, Jr., liberated the concentration camp at Buchenwald and its 21,000 inmates. A few days later, the citizens of nearby Weimar were forced to march five miles to the camp and witness the atrocities that had taken place – literally, in their back yard. Citizen after citizen, after viewing the carnage, kept repeating, “I didn’t know.” In retrospect, it seems hard to believe that these people, just five miles away, didn’t know what was going on. How did they explain that their Jewish neighbors had disappeared months, and even years, before this camp was liberated? It’s more likely that, for most of them, it was easier to look the other way and act like they didn’t know. To acknowledge it meant they would have to share in the responsibility of what was going on.
Let’s take this to a personal level, though. There are things that occur all around us, probably not as visibly atrocious as what occurred in the Nazi death camps but, nevertheless, things that can be dangerous to us and to others. And though we surrounded by these things, the busyness of our lives provokes us to adopt the attitude, “I didn’t know. It was out of sight and out of mind.” When we put those potentially dangerous things out of our mind and never deal with them, they just grow and fester.
It might be something as simple as a personal problem that comes and goes and, so, we never feel compelled to deal with it. Whether it’s anger, bitterness, strife, pride or lust – whatever it is – left unchecked, it will eventually develop into something very destructive. Furthermore, if we try to cover it up and hide it from everyone, just like anyone else who tried to cover their tracks, eventually, the truth will come out. Our hidden sins and those wicked inclinations that are buried so deeply within us, if we are determined to look the other way and pretend the problem doesn’t exist, as the Scripture says, “Our sin will find us out.”
The point today is, none of us want that to happen. None of us wants to force the Creator to expose those things we’ve tried to cover up. So then, what should we do? The Scripture says:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)
Sometimes the hardest part is actually admitting that we have a problem. but if we confess it to Him, He is faithful to forgive us of our transgressions. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David prayed:
“Have mercy upon me, O God according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight … Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:1-4, 7-10)
May it be our prayer that, today, we acknowledge those things we know we need to overcome; those things that we’ve tried to cover up or look the other way and pretend they aren’t there. Let us acknowledge them to our Creator and pray, “Father, purge us from all these things that would fester and grow within us. Forgive us of all of our impurities and of all of our unrighteousness. Make us clean in your sight.”