In 1938, Nazi soldiers marched into the house of Johannes Neubert, a German school teacher under Hitler. They demanded that he had to take down the painting of Jesus Christ over his study desk, join the Nazi Party, and conform to their beliefs. Neubert had to make a choice. Though only three percent of teachers in Germany refused to join the Nazi Party, he took courage, stood up to them and declared: “This painting remains!” He would not become a Nazi, would not condone their beliefs, and would not abandon his faith in Christ. The Nazis were angered by his resistance. They took away his house and career, they threatened his family, and then they sent him to the Russian front.
There Neubert experienced God’s grace and protection in some remarkable ways. On one occasion, he fell asleep even though he was the only soldier guarding a group of allied P.O.W.s. The prisoners made no attempt to escape, knowing the guard, who treated them humanely, would be executed if they did. Neubert was later taken prisoner by the Russians. He told his captors that he was not Nazi, but they refused to believe him. He was lined up with other German soldiers to face a firing squad. At the last moment, the Russian officer ordered Neubert to be removed from the line. “I’m not sure why,” the man said, “but I believe you are telling the truth when you say you are not a Nazi.”
After Hitler’s defeat, the Communists rose to power in East Germany. A few months after the war ended, Neubert was able to return home and was offered a teaching position at an East German school. Eventually, the Communists marched into his house and demanded that he had to take down the painting of Jesus Christ over his study desk, join the Communist Party, and conform to their beliefs. Once again Neubert had to make a choice. As before, he stood up to them and declared “This painting remains!” He refused to join the Communist Party and embrace their beliefs. As before, he was subject to discrimination and persecution. Finally, he lost his teaching position and was denied his pension. Having now lost his career twice, he chose to become an evangelist, proclaiming the great news of Jesus Christ. He was eventually able to escape to the freedom of West Berlin, but he continued to do everything possible to encourage Christian believers suffering on the other side of the Berlin Wall.
Friends, I was deeply challenged a few years ago when I first heard Johannes Neubert’s story, told by his grandson, Michael Furchert. It makes me wonder if I would be as faithful to the Lord Jesus in face of opposition as Neubert was. I find it is sometimes difficult to do or say what I know is right, simply because I am concerned that someone might laugh at me, or not “like me” if I do. The choice of giving up my career, or even my life, for Jesus’ sake is not one I have ever faced. I am very grateful I have not had to make that type of decision. Yet it troubles me that my own faith is probably rather weak, flabby, and “wimpy” compared to the faith Neubert had. I pray the Lord would help all of us who are believers in Jesus to grow stronger in our faith, so we can stand up for what is true, right, and good in our increasingly secular culture.
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church