If you have the time and money, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Resistance: Untold Stories of Jewish Partisans (it’s also available as a Youtube rental for $3). In it, you can hear the stories of real life holocaust survivors, although these people were not among the unfortunate masses herded off to death camps. These Jewish survivors made a decision early on in the days of Nazi persecution that they would not be part of the silent majority. They spent the bulk of the war hiding in forests, launching guerilla attacks against Nazi forces and infrastructure. One particular group of survivors, The Bielski Brigade, had their exploits turned into the major motion picture Defiance.
If your first inclination upon reading this is that I’ve become obsessed with death, you’re sorely mistaken. I have recently become obsessed with life. Not an ordinary, “successful” life in the sense that I’ve worked, married, and retired by the time I’m 65, but rather a life that burned brightly and purposefully, for however long it may have lasted, and influenced hundreds or even thousands of people in the process. Life should not be lived with the pitiful goal of retirement.
I’m writing today about conviction, not death. Although the one can very often lead to the other, they are not necessarily synonymous. That being said, you will rarely, if ever, find someone who is truly convicted of the rightness of their cause who is unwilling to die in its defense. Take for example the Shawnee warrior by the name of Tecumseh, who fought against the American expansion into the Ohio territory following the end of the Revolution. To the fledgling U.S. government, he was a wanton savage bent on the slaying of innocent white men, women and children. To his native people, he was the last, best hope for uniting the disparate tribes in defense of their homeland, which was constantly being bartered away or flat-out stolen by people who claimed to be men of their word, yet violated each and every treaty they ever penned. Tecumseh died at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, and with his death the coalition of Native Americans allied with British forces in the War of 1812 collapsed. Before that battle, he immortalized the following words:
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and
Demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
Its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and
Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and
For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing,
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
In a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."
Life is too short to be lived in fear. If the need ever arose for you to stand and fight for what you believe in, even if it cost you your life, would you shy away from it? If someone put a gun to your head and said, “renounce Christ and live,” would you renounce him to save your own life? If you had a chance to rescue some of your fellow believers from a potential holocaust, would you stand idly by? I certainly don't believe I would.