There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
Drazen Erdemovic had a choice to make in July of 1995. He was a member of the Bosnian Serb army, attached to a non-combat unit. He only joined to provide for his family. He had no desire to fight and kill anyone.
That July he and others were pulled to another unit, whose task was to slaughter civilians as they came in by the busload. They were to shoot them as they were lined up next to a pit. Horrified, Drazen told the CO he couldn’t do it. The choice he was given was stark; either shoot them as ordered or line up and get shot with them.
What would you do? How would you decide? Would you, like most all of us, decide based on fear or love?
Fear says, “I don’t want to die!” Love says, “I can’t kill innocent people in such an act of evil.”
Fear doesn’t want to lose anything, most of all our very body, our life. The love of Jesus tells us that to die in His name is gain. Do we fear going through the door of death to meet Jesus face to face? Enough that we balk at it?
Those of you who’ve been with me for a while know that I’ve almost died three times. I’m not going to tell you it was ever fun, but neither was it as horrible as I might have imagined. If I’m told I have x number of weeks to live, I think I’d be OK with that. I’d make plans and start the countdown.
Would I ever leave a firing squad and join the condemned. I would hope so! I go to God innocent of murder, having stood up for what is right, even if the slaughter would go on without me. Maybe that sacrifice would not go unnoticed. Maybe whoever shot me would have to look me in the eye as they took aim.
What did Drazen do? He figures he killed about 70-80 people that day. In an effort to bring that genocide to light, he found himself on trial for war crimes at the Hague. The defense tried to use the defense of being under duress. A split court denied that defense. He was convicted of manslaughter and given a relatively light sentence.
What was his reaction in the end? He ended up pleading guilty before the trial ended.
His initial decision to kill was his concern for the fate of his wife and kids. His final statement to the court, however, is very telling.
“I (pled guilty) because of those victims, because of my conscience, because of my life, because of my child and my wife, I cannot change what I said…because of the peace of my mind, my soul, my honesty, because of the victims, the war and because of everything.”
His initial decision based on fear didn’t hold up for him! Even though it was at least in part based on providing for his family, he eventually realized that providing for them through morality was more important. This from someone who perhaps didn’t even know God. He knew he had to have faith in what’s right, even if he didn’t know it was God.
Thanks to Jesus and the Father’s mercy, we can make decisions, large and small, based on love and not fear. We can look death in the face, as we all must someday, smile at it, and say, “Take me home. I don’t fear you, because Jesus defeated you. He transformed you from a grave into a door.
So open wide, ‘cause I’m coming through!