Have a vacation day today and started it off watching a couple of episodes of "Nazi Collaborators" on the Military Channel (which I only have for two more day and then the free trial goes away - rats). One episode was titled "Beast of the Balkans". It was the recounting of an early "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs in the old Yugoslavia during World War II.
A couple of things jumped out at me as I listened to this episode. First, the magnitude. It was estimated that between 330,000 and 1,000,000 Serbs were killed. No one knows for sure because all the records were destroyed before the Allies recaptured the area from the Germans. Secondly, the brutality. It was reported that even the Germans were a bit queasy about how the Croats were "disposing" of the Serbs. They preferred more brutal methods of killing (slitting throats, shooting to death, etc.) than gassing like the Nazi's did. This upset even the Nazi's "tender sensitivities" (HEAVY sarcasm there). Third, the church was complicit in this cleansing (Orthodox Christians were "forced" to convert to Catholicism or else). The last thing was that one of the prime conspirators in this cleansing, fled Europe at the end of the war and lived "peaceably" in Argentina for 50 years - raising a family and working in a factory - no remorse, no sadness, no "I am sorry" (in fact, he laughed at his trial when evidence was presented against him).
Mind you, this was 1941. This was NOT the dark ages. This was not the Huns hacking and slashing their way across Europe. This was in a "civilized" state. Right...............
Two things strike me and scare me about situations like this. First, the severe hatred it would take to treat someone as subhuman, as a piece of garbage to be thrown away like a used napkin. I cannot fathom how much hatred existed between these two groups (refer to the start of WW I also....) that would drive them to think that it was OK to kill that many people - men, women, children, old people. Second, how defiled their consciences must have been to allow them to do such a thing and not sense, feel or exhibit ANY remorse.
Funny how this happens isn't it. The scriptures speaks of the contrast between living at peace and allowing a root of bitterness to grow up (Hebews 12):
14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
The "root of bitterness" that grew up in the Croats defiled their consciences as a nation and allowed them to murder hundreds of thousands of people. Their consciences were seared closed because they did not feel any pain, any remorse, any sorrow in doing what they did.
OK, so why is this important. This will not happen today, will it? Oh yes it will. If we do not take care of those little roots of bitterness, if we do not confess our sin and keep our conscience clean and pure, roots grow and cause us to "dehumanize" people and treat them like objects. If we can look at someone in our life with spite and anger, we are on the road to having our life consumed by the root of bitterness and our consciences seared.
My advice? Take care of these things when they are small. Do NOT let your heart become hardened in the course of your day. Do not allow your conscience to be seared. Root out the roots of bitterness. Keep watch on your soul so this does not happen. Make EVERY effort, as the writer of Hebrews says, to live at peace.