In 1941, a stranger to the small French village of La Chambon sat in the town square expecting to hear the church bells ring at noon. Yet, there was no ringing of bells, only silence.
Confused he tracked down the bell master to ask him why the bells hadn’t been rung. It was the first anniversary of the Vichy government in France, and an edict had been issued commanding every town to ring their bells at noon. The Vichy’s were the puppet government of the Nazis and had, amongst other things, brought in anti Semitic laws which the town of La Chambon could not and would not support.
Asked why he didn’t ring the bells, the answer of the bell master was simply this, “we only ring our bell for God.” In other words, we, the town of La Chambon, will not ring the bell for the Vichy Government, nor for safety, security, or because everyone else is doing it. We will only ring our bell for what matters.
It wasn’t the only act of defiance to the government which was made by the people of La Chambon throughout the war years. Arguably their most significant act was to become a town of refuge for those who were persecuted by the government, in particular the Jews. Hiding Jews and other refuges in the town and surrounding woods, over the war years they saved and smuggled to safety some 5000 people. Such a choice would put the people of La Chambon at risk.
Such a choices begs the question of why? Why would they do this? Where did they get the belief that all people matter and that we should be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them if need be?
Jesus. The one they rang their bell for.
Jesus’ death on the cross is a stark reminder of the character of the one who they rang their bell for. Jesus willingly went to His death on a cross, to take on our transgressions and our iniquities. All those things which have caused a separation from God. All those things which only lead to death. In a beautiful exchange, Jesus, who was perfect, chose to sacrifice himself so that we might have life. He assigned to us a value and significance that we did not deserve, because he values us.
Do you understand God this way? Not simply as the all powerful, all knowing, or all present one. But as the sacrificial one who gives himself away so that others can know life? If you do, will you only ring your bell for Him? If you do, have you considered what such a life ought to look like?