BreakPoint: The Eichmann in All of Us

Chuck Colson on the Root of Evil

Eric Metaxas: What is going on in our country? Why all the anger and hatred? As Chuck Colson reminds us, the answer is as old as humanity.

 In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, a national argument is underway. I’d like to say it’s a national debate, but no one seems to be listening to each other. So, who’s to blame for the racism, identity politics, and escalating violence and on and on?

Well, earlier this week on this program, speaking about Charlottesville, John Stonestreet got to the root of the problem. It’s called the Fall.

“Understanding the biblical concept of the Fall,” John said, “keeps us from finding the enemy only in the other, as if the problem is always outside of ourselves. No, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, ‘the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.’”

John is absolutely right. And what he said reminded me of a brilliant BreakPoint commentary delivered by Chuck Colson way back in 1994 about Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. Why do human beings perpetrate evil? It’s the Eichmann in all of us.

Here’s Chuck Colson:

Chuck: For you and me, the answer to that question is as close as our faith, as close as our own hearts. Christians, of all people, should never be surprised at the evil that infects every human being—even the most ordinary of people.

A dramatic illustration of this truth took place thirty years ago, when Israeli agents captured Adolph Eichmann, one of the masterminds of the Nazi holocaust, and brought him to Israel to stand trial for his crimes.

Among the witnesses called to testify against Eichmann was a small, haggard man named Yehiel Dinur. He had survived brutal torture in the death camp at Auschwitz. Dinur entered the courtroom and he stared at the man who had presided over the slaughter of millions— including many of Dinur’s own friends.

As the eyes of the victim met those of the mass murderer, the courtroom fell silent. Then, suddenly, Dinur literally collapsed to the floor, sobbing violently.

Was he overcome by hatred? By memories of the stark evil that Eichmann had committed?

No. As Dinur explained later in a riveting interview on “60 Minutes,” what struck him was that Eichmann did not look like an evil monster at all; he looked like an ordinary person. Just like anyone else. In that moment, Dinur said, “I realized that evil is endemic to the human condition—that any one of us could commit the same atrocities.”

In a remarkable conclusion, Dinur said: “Eichmann is in all of us.”

This is what the Bible means when it talks about sin. In our therapeutic culture, people cringe when they hear words like evil and sin. We’d prefer to talk about people as victims of dysfunctional backgrounds. But there are times when it becomes obvious that those categories are simply insufficient—times when the evil in the human heart breaks through the veneer of polite society and shows us its terrifying face.

Eric Metaxas: Folks, what happened in Charlottesville will be the focus of a lot of talk for the foreseeable future—especially as protests and counter protests pop up around the country. So, as Chuck went on to say, why not use these events “as an opportunity to press home to your family and your friends the profound truth of the biblical teaching on sin.”  That the events unfolding on our TV screens and newsfeeds “ought to remind us that all of us are in revolt against God,” and that the “only salvation for any of us is repentance and grace.”

 

The Eichmann in All of Us: Chuck Colson on the Root of Evil

Chuck’s comments are a reminder of the apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Roman church. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eric has encouraged us to proclaim Christ’s grace and forgiveness as we repent and trust in Him–the only antidote to evil.

Resources

How Could She? Eichmann in Us All
  • Chuck Colson | BreakPoint.org | November 18, 1994
The Gulag Archipelago
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn | Harper Perennial Publishers | August 2007

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  • ah.1960

    Excellent commentary, Eric, and certainly a fresh perspective on the national turmoil right now.

    To say there are bad actors on both sides placates no one. To say there are good people on both sides is seen as worse. Both statements are true to a degree, but no one is saying, “That could be me.”

    We like to view those who agree with us as right and virtuous and those who don’t as wrong or evil. That absolute assessment makes it. Yet none of us is that one-dimensional, and while we would like to recognize that there are decent people on both sides, the truth as stated by Scripture is more accurate, “There is no one righteous–not even one.”

    I can try to stand apart from both groups and self-righteously make this statement while looking at “them.” The real challenge is to say it while looking in the mirror.

    • Scott

      I love your assessment here! Be the change you want to see and then humbly go to God in repentance and lament.

      Evil is in all of us. We must recognize it in ourselves first, then spend our lives fighting it. Let God supply us with all that is good and righteous and acknowledge Him for it.

    • Steve Carl

      great comment.

  • gladys1071

    i have learned as i keep getting older that each person is not all bad or all good. Each of us have both in us and we can do good things, and really bad things.

    When i look in the mirror i realize how selfish i really am, and that my sinful nature rears its ugly head more than i realize.

    As human beings we are defintely complex and our motivations are complex, not always evil or always good. I think God understand us more than we understand ourselves, he sees the whole person and he can see what others cannot see, especially the motivations inside our hearts.

    I try to remember that David was called a man after God’s own heart, though he was an adullterer and murderer, yet even God did not consider him all bad either.

  • jason taylor

    If we don’t watch out we will get to sounding like that old trope of how the boy who shot up his school was picked on by everyone. The obvious answer is simply that lots of people are picked on by everyone who did not shoot up their school. Likewise there may be a little Eichmann in all of us but Eichmann was still Eichmann. We cannot forget mercy when doing judgement but nor can we forget justice when being merciful.

  • Gayle Brees

    I actually heard Chuck Colson give that 1994 commentary and it has never left me. When I saw the title of this commentary I thought of it before I even read this one and realized that it was referenced. There are times when I am reminded of just how deeply Chuck Colson’s ministry impacted me as a Christian. I have shared this anecdote several times over the years; it never left me. Thank you for your ministry and how it has helped me in my spiritual growth. I miss Chuck’s voice but am so grateful for you who carry on this so-needed voice of truth.