Commentary

The Christian World Changers You May Have Never Heard Of

John Stonestreet
By John Stonestreet | June 3, 2016 | 10:42 AM EDT

Philippe Petain, head of the French World War II collaborationist government in Vichy, greets French prisoners arriving from Germany in 1941. (AP Photo)

You may be able to name a number of famous Christians who changed the world. But Dr. Glenn Sunshine wants you to know the world-changers you may never have heard of.

Remembering. It’s vital to our Christian faith. Remembering, as the Jews do, the miraculous works of Yahweh in history. Remembering Jesus’ suffering and what He accomplished on the cross. And remembering the heroes of the faith who’ve gone before us.

An excellent example of this kind of remembrance is Hebrews 11. It’s a veritable faith hall of fame. After extolling the astounding faith of figures like Noah and Abraham and Joseph and even Rahab the prostitute, the author of Hebrews has us where he wants us: Inspired. So he begins chapter 12 with this charge: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses … let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

That’s the power of remembering God’s servants who have gone before us. And that’s why Dr. Glenn Sunshine writes his “Christians Who Changed Their World” columns at ColsonCenter.org. But Glenn doesn’t focus in on the big names. He’s on a mission to introduce the church to lesser known but equally significant heroes of the faith.

His latest column is about André and Magda Trocmé, two French Protestants who committed themselves to doing the right thing no matter the cost. And in 1940s France, the right thing to do was to save Jews.

The Trocmés lived in Le Chambon in Vichy France—a part of France not occupied by the Nazis, but run by the collaborationist French Vichy government. André was a Huguenot pastor and a committed pacifist.

After the defeat of France in 1940, André and Magda heard a knock on the door. It was a Jewish woman fleeing from the Nazis, desperately needing help. Magda tried to secure false papers for her, but the mayor was no help. He also warned Magda that if the Germans found out anyone was helping Jews, the entire village would suffer.

That only inspired Magda and André all the more. As Glenn describes in his column, “Pastor Trocmé began to exhort his congregation to shelter the ‘People of the Book’ who were fleeing Nazi persecution. He told them, ‘We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel.’”

Church members began volunteering to hide Jews. They also created an underground network to get Jews safely across the Swiss border. Vichy officials caught on and eventually tipped off the Germans—who searched Le Chambon and found nothing.

Finally, Vichy officials demanded that Trocmé stop his activities. André was blunt: “These people came here for help and shelter. I am their shepherd. A shepherd does not forsake his flock. I do not know what a Jew is. I only know human beings.”

Eventually, André was arrested and sent to a detention camp but was released after ten days. He spent the rest of the war underground. But Le Chambon’s rescue operation continued.

What Glenn calls a “conspiracy of goodness” saved an untold number of Jewish lives. In fact, not one Jew was caught in Le Chambon during the entire war.

Why did these French Christians risk all to save Jews? In a post-war documentary, one villager simply said, “We didn’t protect the Jews because we were a moral or heroic people. We helped them because it was the human thing to do.”

There’s one fascinating element to this story that I only want to hint at because I’d love for you to read it yourself. The French Protestants, known as Huguenots, were themselves victims of savage persecution by the French Catholic monarchy during the 16th and 17th centuries. One method of survival they used played a major role in the Trocmés rescue of the Jews.

John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.

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