Escaped from a Cattle Wagon. Radical Grace from the Book of Romans (9:1-5)


Jews being gathered in cattle wagons

"At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. It's an enormous pain deep within me, and I'm never free of it. I'm not exaggerating-Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It's the Israelites... If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I'd do it in a minute. They're my family. I grew up with them. They had everything going for them-family, glory, covenants, revelation, worship, promises, to say nothing of being the race that produced the Messiah, the Christ, who is God over everything, always. Oh, yes!" Romans 9:1-5 (MSG)

How much do we try to help those who have no hint of hope in their life? Drug addicts, the sick, the unemployed, the poor, the ones who don't even have an inkling about the love of our Heavenly Father? Would we be willing to offer our lives to save one of them?

The apostle Paul was willing, but his own people didn't believe him.

Breholtz and Manfred, aged 21, were stuck in a cattle wagon headed for Auschwitz. They desperately tried to separate the iron bars from the small window in their wagon, without any success. They tried using their pullovers as ropes, but these didn't provide enough grip on the bars. It seemed nothing they did worked. Only one person in the wagon was willing to help them: "Why don't you soak the sweaters in urine to increase their traction?" He asked.

"Why not?" They thought.

They dipped the ropes in the toilet and way more than urine came back. It smelled terrible! They succeeded with this method, however, and with the help of the man who had the idea, to yank the bars far enough for them to squeeze out.

Once outside on the ledge of the wagon, they had to avoid the searchlights from the guards. They jumped and survived.

Why didn't the other prisoners try to escape as well? They had the means. I am certain that these two young men encouraged them to do so. I wonder if this haunted them in life: "Maybe we should have encouraged them way more than what we did."

Interestingly enough, this happened in a lot of wagons. Generally, the escapees faced the ire of the prisoners, as they feared retributions from the Nazis for letting some of them escape. They would prefer to reach their destination where they would eventually die in a concentration camp. They had the chance but didn't take it.

It's still the same today. Maybe we aren't in a cattle wagons, but we have the opportunity to experience eternal life. Are we doing anything to encourage them? Are we ready to jump from the cattle wagon ourselves?

We can sit in the safety of a cattle wagon hoping all will end well. Is this the destination we long for?

Rob Chaffart

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