As far as a human bacterium goes, he alone was the greatest pestilence of the 20th century. Adolf Hitler entered this world as a seed of promise on April 20, 1889. He left it on April 30, 1945, as the new bench mark of social perversion.
Hitler was both a magnificent leader and a malignant cancer in one incarnate nightmare. He took sin to new depths. So complete was his descent that he has become in our lifetime the lead apostolic figure in Satan's kingdom. But have you ever wondered how it all began for Hitler? His moral plummet is both intriguing and rich with lessons.
Hitler was one of three children, born to Alois Hitler and Klara Polzl. Alois was hot-tempered. Klara both protective and smothering. This dysfunctional combination created a vacuum in young Adolf, a vacuum he tried to fill outside the home.
His first childhood affection was as a choirboy in the Catholic Church. This led to an open infatuation with the priesthood. At age 12, Adolf sheepishly shared his dreams with his father. Alois firmly rejected Adolf's career choices and forced him to pursue a profession in business--a hard-line that launched a feud between the two.
Having abandoned any ideas of the priesthood, Hitler turned his heart toward a deeper secret desire. He wanted to become a famous artist. His father's sudden death in 1903 opened the door for the now 15-year-old teen to wholly pursue his craft as a painter.
Abandoning his mother in 1904, he moved to Vienna and enrolled in a fine arts academy. But he was soon released from the school for lack of creativity. Crushed and rejected for a second time, he wandered for two years in total poverty, living alone in a variety of homeless shelters.
Unwanted and without direction, his spirit grew bitter with each passing day. Left idle, he began to avidly read. Books espousing anti-Semitism were left among the poor and homeless of Vienna, Austria. Page after page of hate penetrated Hitler's vulnerable soul. He developed a hatred for the Jews and soon attributed every negative social disease of Germany to their presence.
Filled with disgust, he fled in 1913 to escape the cultural diversity that now filled the city of Vienna. He wanted only Germans in his life. They were the elite race. Hitler was thrilled when war broke out later that year. He coveted the idea of shedding blood on behalf of German pre-eminence.
It was in the military during World War I when Hitler finally felt the belonging that had been missing his whole life. Temporarily blinded by a poison gas attack in his barracks, he would hear of Germany's defeat and vowed to one day avenge it. As they say, the rest is history.
Now back to my question. How do people become hardened toward God while becoming putty in the hands of Satan? It can be answered in a simple, one-word answer. Rejection.
The gateway into Hitler's mind was unresolved rejection. The absence of belonging created by his father led to the absence of becoming all that his Creator destined him to be. I'm not saying the next Hitler is lying in wait behind the next act of rejection. I am saying rejection can be the seed of evil.
So when a child shares his or her dream, listen with enthusiasm and guide with compassion. Dreams live within a child's spirit--a fragile world to be crushed or cherished. It is the same with the "big people" who, due to shame or fear of rejection, peer through the church's windows from the safe distance of the sidewalk. They are part of a post-Christian society called America and they, too, are searching for inclusion.
My prayer in 2003 for the church I pastor is that rejection goes from the endangered species list to the place it really belongs. Extinction.
Scott Hagan is senior pastor of Grand Rapids First Assembly of God (www.grandrapidsfirst.org) in Michigan and author of They Walked With the Savior (www.charismahouse.com).