Reverence for Life
Albert Schweitzer, a good man highly admired by the fuzzy thinkers of our day, lived for years in Congo, East Africa. He was a brilliant man, a philosopher, doctor, musician, and composer. But he should never be called a Christian. He doesn’t see Christ as having any relevance to his philosophy or life. He is a humanist.
A favorite sport of the Belgian government officials who were expert marksman was crocodile-shooting from the deck of a streamer on the Congo River. They kept tally by means of a knotted string around their gun barrel, counting the number of crocodiles killed. Schweitzer was rightfully appalled by their revolting sport. He deemed it a colossal waste of life. From these experiences Schweitzer gleaned the essence of his philosophy, summed by these words: reverence for life. Crocodile life… human life… and all other kinds of life. Dr. Schweitzer was so convinced of reverence of life that he didn’t like to sterilize his surgery. He had the dirtiest surgery in Africa. Bacteria are life and must not be destroyed.
George Kline, a veteran missionary with the South Africa General Mission, lived about 60 miles from Dr. Schweitzer’s station. George was an accomplished organist and organ repairer. He was asked by Dr. Schweitzer to come to his station to check out his malfunctioning organ, donated by a friend in Germany. George went over to see the good doctor.
“George, do you think you can fix my organ?”
“I’ll try,” he responded.
George took the back off the organ and to his amazement discovered a huge nest of cockroaches. With characteristic American enthusiasm and zeal George started trampling all over the cockroaches so as not to let a one of them get away. And the good doctor came out, his hair standing straighter than it had for a long time. And because of his anger he said, “YOU STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!”
George said, “Why? They’re ruining your organ.”
Schweitzer said, “That’s all right, they were just being true to their nature. You can’t kill those.”
So one of the boys came in and said, “It’s all right, Mr. Kline.” And he reached down very tenderly, picked them up, and put them in a little bag, and crimped the top. Then he took the roaches out into the jungle and let them loose.
Now here was a man that believed his philosophy of reverence for life. He was UTTERLY COMMITTED TO IT, UTTERLY CONSISTENT, even when it came to the matter of a cockroach or a microbe. Do you see? This is humanism, this is consistency.
NOW I ASK YOU, WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF MISSIONS? WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF EVANGELISM? WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY OF A CHRISTIAN?
If you’ll ask me why I went to Africa, I’ll tell you I went primarily to improve on the justice of God. I didn’t think it was right for anybody to go to Hell without a chance to be saved. So I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to heaven. Now I hadn’t put it in so many words, but if you’ll analyze what I just told you do you know what it is? Humanism. I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery. And when I went to Africa, I discovered that they weren’t poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods looking for someone to tell them how to go to heaven. But they were MONSTERS OF INIQUITY! They were living in utter and total defiance of far more knowledge of God then I ever dreamed they had! They deserved Hell, because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience, and light of the law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew.
When I found that out, I assure you that I was so angry with God that on one occasion in prayer I told Him it was a mighty little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to heaven, but when I got there I found out they knew about heaven and didn’t want to go there, and that they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it.
I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in Hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear THROUGH THE OVERLAY OF THIS HUMANISM! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here I was, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying, “Someone come teach us”, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! I wanted to come home.
There alone in my bedroom as I faced God honestly with what my heart felt, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, but will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The Heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to Hell, but not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners WHO LOVE THEIR SIN, and because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this: “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM! I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”
I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of Hell for me. But He deserved the heathen, because He died for them. My eyes were opened. I was no longer working for Micah and ten shekels and a shirt, but I was serving a living God.
Do you see? Let me epitomize, let me summarize. Christianity says, “The end of all being is the glory of God.” Humanism says, “The end of all being is the happiness of man.”
One was born in Hell: the deification of man. THE OTHER WAS BORN IN HEAVEN: THE GLORIFICATION OF GOD! One is Levite serving Micah, and the other is a heart that’s unworthy, serving the living God, because it’s the highest honor in the universe.