It was on this day in 1941 that so-called life certificates were distributed to a few fortunate Jewish residents in the Vilna Ghetto. Unfortunately, those who did not receive these certificates were sent off to the extermination camps at Auschwitz and Treblinka.
These little yellow certificates were, in reality, work permits. This work allowed for the one who held that certificate plus two of his family members to stay behind and avoid the death camps. Unfortunately, in Vilna, only 400 of these life permits were issued. That meant thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, were sentenced to die – and all because of they couldn’t obtain a simple little slip of yellow paper.
In the grand scheme of things, true life isn’t determined by a despot and his underlings who think they have the power to decide who lives and who dies. True life is determined and defined by the One who gives life. He said:
“Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14)
It’s the difficulty of this path that turns many away, yet it is the only one that leads to true life. To find life as the Creator defines it means we must be willing to die to ourselves and, in some extreme cases, be willing to lay down your life. The point here is, it’s not the Hitlers of the world who determine who lives and dies; that power has been delegated to us and is determined by which path we choose to travel. It’s based on who we choose to fear, to honor and to serve. Messiah also said this:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5)
You and I have been given the power to decide. He has given us the opportunity to choose between life and death. He encourages us to have life by dying to our will and allowing Him to live through us. Only then can we truly live. So who do we fear? God or a despot? Should we honor Him or do we honor an earthly ruler? Do we esteem Him above all, or are there things in this life that are far more important to us? Each and every one of us are going to have to grapple with this issue, and in the days, weeks and months ahead, even more so.
Determining who we fear more will determine whether we live or whether we die. Today, we need to be challenged to decide who we’re going to serve, because tomorrow we may be called upon to demonstrate that service to the world.