“I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked” (Psalm 26:5)
Between November 28 and December 1, 1943, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin Roosevelt met in Tehran to coordinate military strategy in the war against Germany. In his podcast “Reflections of History,” Jon Meacham tells about an evening meal the three leaders shared on November 29. During the dinner, Stalin bragged that he planned to execute 50,000 German officers after the war.
When I heard that, immediately I figured everyone laughed, being reminded of an old “lawyer joke” with the punchline “a good start.” Indeed, Roosevelt tried to lighten the comment by saying perhaps only 49,000 should be killed. Churchill, however, was having none of it. He pointedly reproved Stalin and said such talk was barbaric and then, visibly shaken, got up from the table and walked into an empty nearby room to be by himself.
Churchill needed Stalin and Roosevelt. Together, they had a chance against Hitler. Churchill knew that alone, Britain would be toast. And yet, principle and honor and decency was at stake. He could not abide such cruel talk and would not be a part of it.
And I thought “wow.” I then thought of the Psalm text above, as well as Psalm 1:1 and Job’s comment “I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.” Whatever else history may say about Churchill, there was an admirable moment.
I’m tempted to say “we need more leaders like that, who exhibit in their dealings an uncompromising devotion to justice, honor, decency, and mercy – come what may, cost what it will.” But really, we need to be a people like that. And when we are, we’ll have the leaders we need. For followers of Jesus, such a life is not an option. It is our calling. Nothing less will do.