Hitler is often used as an example of the greatest human evil. After all, his regime killed millions of people. But consider this:
Hitler didn’t kill a single person.
Neither Hitler nor his top henchmen killed anyone directly. They relied on ordinary people, good citizens, people raised in good Christian homes. They relied on people like you and me. The lesson of the Nazis is not simply the danger of letting angry demogogues take over your country. It is also that every day ordinary people can be led to do awful things.
This comes as a great shock to some people. Many see people as basically good, only going astray when some outside factor pushes them in the wrong direction.
This should not, however, come as a shock to Christians. Orthodox Christianity teaches that people have great evil inside them always looking for a new way to express itself. We believe the heart is wicked, deceitful above all things, and that there is no one who seeks God, none who does good.
Therefore we should expect that our friends and family and especially we ourselves will do bad things. We know the depths to which we can all too easily obtain, and so we should steel ourselves against the sin of our loved ones – it will surely come – and we should take steps to head off our own sin at the pass.
For my own sin, I have to learn to resist, flee, or avoid temptation – whatever will work in that circumstance.
For my neighbor’s sin I have to learn to say, there but for the grace of God go I.