The Danger of Appeasement

December 4th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 10 (NLT)

10 People who wink at wrong cause trouble,
      but a bold reproof promotes peace.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

They’ve been called “The Greatest Generation.”  They lived through the Great Depression, painstakingly conserving their resources and lingering in long soup lines.  As if life wasn’t difficult enough, they were then called to unite as one against the greatest evil of the modern generation: Hitler’s Nazi Regime.  As the brave young men and women of our nation boarded ships to fight enemies in Europe and the Pacific, those left at home tenaciously went to work in factories and manufacturing plants to fuel the war machine that was necessary to achieve victory.

Some came home safely; many did not, spilling their blood and finding their graves on foreign soil.  These were heroes who stood at the crossroads of modern culture and took up the torch to make sure freedom’s light would not burn out on their watch.  They truly were a remarkable generation.

But what many people don’t know is that World War II didn’t necessarily have to happen the way it did.  The millions of lives and the innocence of a generation that was lost didn’t have to be expended in the way they were.  The root cause of a world at war was a man and his followers who set out to exterminate the Jews and to conquer the nations of the earth.  Not to bore you with a long history lesson, but the truth of the matter is that this was not the first attempt by Germany to achieve global dominance.  The Great War (World War I) was fought from 1914 to 1918, of which Germany was the loser.  Agreeing to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German government vowed to disarm and dismantle their military forces.  Disarmament was the condition of their peace with the world.

But it would seem that the world at the time cared more about peace in their present than the imminence of another war. Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, Germany began rearming and reassembling their war machine by little bits and pieces.  This began a policy of international politics known as “appeasement.” Simply put, appeasement went something like this: Germany would break one little part of the treaty and the other nations, distracted by international economic crisis, would “slap them on the wrist” for it.  It was like they were saying, Now Germany, you know better.  Don’t do that again or we’re going to respond.”

But they never did.  Germany would lay low for a while, but then do something else seemingly minor and receive another slap on the wrist.  The leading nations of the world didn’t want to go to the expense and trouble of responding militarily to Germany’s little trespasses.  That was appeasement: constant threats with no action.  This policy continued for years and years on end until all of Germany’s minor military advances had added up to the greatest military force in the world.  It didn’t happen overnight and no one approved of it, they just appeased Germany to “keep the peace.”  But by keeping the peace, they inadvertently destroyed it and plunged the world into a war much greater than the Great War they were trying to avoid.  Tragically, appeasement simply didn’t work.

It still doesn’t; that’s what this passage is about.  It’s about “winking at wrong” . . . walking near the edge of compromise without actually conceding control to it.  It’s standing on the border between right and wrong and acting as if one lives in both lands.  It’s appeasing the old lifestyle.  A little bitterness here.  A little lust there.  It’s not that bad . . . is it?  

The question of when certain actions are actually wrong is similar to the question of when certain actions are actually cheating on a spouse.  You can rest assured that my wife would most certainly never approve of even a “wink” at another woman in the wrong way.  But baby, I didn’t cheat!  I only winked at her!  Hey, why are you picking up that hot frying pan . . . baby?

Appeasement, like most things that matter in life, is an issue of the heart.  It’s a question of the willingness to take action in the present before war breaks out between the worlds within us.  If someone would have mobilized their army the first or second time Hitler broke the terms of the treaty and marched into Germany to reinstate what was expected of them, history would be telling us a much different story.  We must deal directly with our old lifestyles, not appease them to create a temporary facade of peace because it’s less trouble.  Less trouble now means loads of trouble later.

That’s why this passage ends with the truth that “a bold reproof promotes peace.”  A reproof is a correction or a rebuke.  As opposed to appeasement, boldness in dealing with our lifestyles brings real peace.  I’m not just talking about standing up in school and screaming at everybody who’s doing wrong things in life; no, I’m talking about boldly recognizing within ourselves when the old lifestyle is rearming against us.  Truth be told, we don’t have the power to cross borders and conquer the evil within us; but God does and His strength is available to us through the grace of Jesus.

Grace is the key to strength.  Not personal ideology.  Not stubborn resolve.  Not personal righteousness or self-control.  Without grace, we are nothing . . . even if we don’t realize it.  To win the war, we mustn’t listen to the modern mantra that says, “look within yourself for answers.”  Dude, aren’t we the ones with the questions?  No, we must lay aside our humanity and embrace His divinity.  This is the action that we are called to take.  This is the anti-appeasement.

I’m so thankful for “The Greatest Generation” and what they did for our generation.  However, I mourn their unfathomable loss knowing that it may have been unnecessary.  Appeasement is nothing but a postponement of war.

I’d rather take minor actions now to avoid global conflicts later.



~ by johndriver on December 4, 2008.

2 Responses to “The Danger of Appeasement”

  1. The first part of this I found so cool cause I actually knew what you were talking about! Thank you Dr. Barnett! Anyway, I absolutely loved this comparison. I have been away from my parents for three months now, and I’m hoping it gets easier on down the road, because I’ve realized how much I just wanted to please my mother and father growing up. I started to even think like them. Now I feel like I’m discovering my own brain so to speak, and it’s scary to see what I “wink” at. I find myself in a conversation with someone who knows exactly who they are (in other words, very strongly opinionated), and I find myself agreeing with them or compromising my beliefs so I don’t offend anyone even though I know my boundaries and feelings on the subject. New make-out buddy every week? That’s not that bad. We are in college. It’s ok to have a little fun. Your parents are idiots? Yeah, I guess I see where you are coming from. It’s ok to call them names when you are angry, as long as you still love them. I feel like next a friend will tell me they are dating an atheist and I will say “That’s great! Maybe you will convert them!” I just need to pray and find what’s right for me, not for the sake of arguing with them, but I just want to know where I stand.

  2. its neat because we have recently covered some of this same information at school. (the historical stuff, not the biblical)
    anyway, whenever i have questions in life i tend to get frustrated and search around for answers and ask other people instead of looking to my God and relying on Him to provide the answers i need. i have to stop taking chances and go straight to God. He is the ONLY one with the correct and trustworthy answer.

    sorry this kind of doesnt go with the blog, but its what i got from it 🙂

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