Two Children, Two Outcomes

Two recent news items offer a marked contrast in how we treat other people in general, and children in particular. Most people would have seen the first tragic story. It involved a toddler in China left to die while onlookers walked by and did nothing.

Here is one news account of this horrific incident: “A video showing a toddler being struck twice by vans and then ignored by passers-by is sparking outrage in China and prompting soul-searching over why people didn’t help the child.

“The 2-year-old girl, identified as Wang Yue, is in a coma in critical condition in the Guangzhou Military District General Hospital following Thursday’s accident, state media reported Tuesday. The Guangzhou Daily quoted the hospital’s head of neurosurgery as saying the girl is likely to remain in a vegetative state if she survives.

“A closed-circuit television video obtained by state media shows the toddler wandering along a narrow market street in the city of Foshan when she is struck by a van. As several people walk or cycle by, the child lies in a pool of blood and is then hit by another van. All told local media count 18 people passing by before a trash collector finally picks up the child and gives her to a woman identified as her mother.

“The case is the latest heavily publicized example of Chinese in distress being ignored by fellow citizens in a phenomenon seen as illustrating the corrosive effect China’s headlong pursuit of economic growth has had on public ethics.”

This is a shocking story, although the last line is a bit questionable. It is not economic growth that causes people to become uncaring and indifferent. The problem is far deeper, and needs to be addressed at that level. At bottom we have here a perfect illustration of the biblical worldview.

We are all sinners, focused on self, with little or no concern for others. That is what life is like in a fallen world. We look after Number One, and feel no sense of obligation for others. Life is all about self, not others, and when people actually do show concern for others, particularly strangers, it tends to be the exception to the rule – and that because of God’s common grace and being made in His image.

That is what the biblical story tells us. As a race we are locked onto self, and other-love is something that does not come naturally to us. Jesus came to set us free from this fixation with self, and show us what real love is all about. When we come to Christ in repentance and faith, he begins a major makeover of us, starting on the inside.

With his Spirit resident in us, we can finally start to love as we were intended to. Jesus of course powerfully demonstrated this radical new way of living, as we read about in the gospels. He went to those who were unloved and rejected, and lavished the Father’s love on them.

Indeed, stranger love is at the heart of the New Testament message, and we find it so explicitly spelled out in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This story makes it clear that most would rather walk on the other side of the road than deal with a stranger in need. But the truly loving person will go and minister to that poor fellow, even if it is a costly thing to do.

When Jesus died for our sins on the cross, even when we were all still shaking our fists at God, this was the most complete and fundamental demonstration of this other-love. While we were yet sinners who rejected God, Christ died for us, showing us what sacrificial love is all about.

The second story very nicely illustrates just how this sacrificial love can take place in today’s self-centred world. It concerns a mother who made the ultimate sacrifice to save her own unborn daughter. The story goes like this: “An Oklahoma woman died of cancer last month after refusing chemotherapy that would have threatened the life of her unborn child.

“Stacie Crimm was 41, single, and unexpectedly pregnant, when she was diagnosed with head and neck cancer this past July. Faced with the agonizing decision of whether to expose her unborn child to a potentially fatal course of chemotherapy, Crimm decided to put her own life on the line instead.

“Her daughter, Dottie Mae, was born August 16th by emergency C-section after Crimm collapsed in her home.
Doctors managed to save the 2-pound baby and resuscitate the mother, placing both in intensive care units in separate buildings. While Crimm seemed to be improving at first, her condition soon deteriorated until three weeks later she stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated again. Her family was told that she was dying.”

This is an amazing story of courage, self-sacrifice and supreme other-love. She represents what we find in the work of Christ, but on a much smaller scale of course. And her love was for her own daughter, not a stranger, or for those in fact hostile to her. But it is nonetheless a moving and powerful image of what Christian sacrificial love is all about.

Her love contrasts so strongly with the apparent indifference and lack of love shown by the Chinese. But of course such sad stories are in fact common, and can be found all over the world. I recall many decades ago a story coming from New York about a woman being attacked while dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people stood by and did nothing.

People don’t want to get involved – they just want to make sure their own little world is OK. In a world filled with self-centred people, such cases of gross apathy and heartlessness are not surprising. What is surprising is when people love others, even strangers, and are willing to do so even at very great cost.

That is the story of Jesus, and that is the story told millions of times over by those whose lives have been transformed by Christ. Atheists may say Christianity is evil and harmful, but the very opposite is true. Such selfless sacrificial love is only available because of what Christ has done for us.

It certainly is not the product of selfish genes or the survival of the fittest. The two children mentioned above were treated in two quite different ways. These treatments ultimately reflect two contrasting worldviews. One is the gospel of self and me-first, and the other is the gospel of Christ and selfless sacrificial love, even for strangers.

All of us fit in one or the other worldviews. I used to belong to the former, but because of God’s pursuing and relentless love, I now belong to the latter. It is my hope that everyone reading this will make that leap from sin and selfishness to genuine Christian love and compassion.

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13 Replies to “Two Children, Two Outcomes”

  1. In regards to the first story, I had also read that people in China are afraid to help others because of incidents in recent years when people stopped to help, offered some money to cover medical expenses and then were sued by the very people who they had stopped to help!
    Alison Stanley

  2. What a horrible example of “hearts growing cold” as was predicted would happen in the Bible the closer we get to the end times. We shake our heads in disbelief – I couldn’t even let a dog endure what that child did! But yet, the cold indifference of those who passed by shows how real sin, evil, and death is; and how it (unfortunately) permeates the souls of those who don’t know or believe in Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for sharing such a heart-wrenching, truthful essay that illustrated the difference between those willing to self-sacrifice for others, vs. those who would show such blatant indifference towards the sufferings of another. The facts are evident that sacrificial love is what counts most in the Gospel of Christ, and it also means a lot in the hearts, minds, souls and spirits of those who know Christ. We all need to be reminded to continue to demonstrate sacrificial love to others during our time here on this earth.

    Christine Watson, US

  3. We ordinarily expect that wouldn’t happen in western countries. I don’t believe it would. At least not to as bad an extent as that.

    But western countries are infected with the Judeo-Christian ethic which says you shouldn’t just love the members of your family or tribe. Love should be extended even to strangers. It is by virtue of our common humanity that we should love. Not just on the basis of immediate self-interest.

    This was what was so revolutionary about Jesus/Christianity

    Damien Spillane

  4. I have seen news footage of dead baby girls lying ignored in the gutter in China. With the rule of one-child-only,girls are not wanted. What a messed up society to get to that! We must fight at every twist and turn to ensure our hearts do not grow cold, as Christine’s comment warns us.
    Rachel Smith

  5. Thanks ‘Sailor’

    We have some problems here. I need a full proper name as my rules state. Only spineless wonders hide behind anonymity and/or pseudonyms.

    Also, I clearly said that such activities take place elsewhere, as in the New York example I provided. And of course the entire article makes the point that such callousness and selfishness is endemic in the human race. It is a universal problem which we all face, and only the liberating power of Christ and the gospel can rectify it.

    So it has absolutely nothing to do with racism as you foolishly claim.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. A gut-wrenching, yet very real fact of the world we live in. How desperately the world needs to know of Christ’s love that heals!
    Beena Saju

  7. As I watched the people walking past the injured girl it brought to mind the story of the good Samaritan. Except this was real and not a story. How well our Lord knows our selfish hearts.
    Kylie Anderson

  8. Hi Sailor, the two children, two outcomes stories have sparked in you the heated accusation “Racists”. I guess you have compared the negative story of the toddler ignored by passers-by in China against the positive story of the child of the Oklahoma woman and read that as anti-Chinese/pro American. But the article does state that the incident sparked outrage in China and and soul-searching as to how that could happen.

    In England people often walk on by when they see someone lying in the street, assuming they are drunk or a drug addict. Not me – I call an ambulance. One day I saw a dead foetus lying on the pavement near the local hospital. I phoned the Council Highways department – they didn’t believe me but sent someone round pronto to remove it. A toddler in traffic or dead baby in the street while people walk by is is on another level and is a problem that has to be addressed. Confucius said “Study the past if you would define the future”. Wise words, we must face up to things that go wrong in order to learn from mistakes. I hope we don’t let our hearts go cold.

    Rachel Smith

  9. More helpful commentary on the China episode can be found here:

    “People don’t help injured two–year–olds in China because helping others is not state–approved behavior. In 2007 a young man was sued after he helped an elderly woman with a broken leg to the hospital. The Wall Street Journal reports the court ordered the rescuer to pay 40 percent of the woman’s medical bills because ‘according to common sense’ he would not have helped her if he had not been in some way responsible for her fall. This is social Darwinism as a governing philosophy. Altruism only creates suspicion in a government where religion is banned. This is why over time the religion haters won’t like the government that results from their efforts. Because when you jettison God, you also jettison the Good Samaritan.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. I found it hard to believe I was reading this story as it is close to the illustration Hudson Taylor used to make people in England realize how guilty they were if thousands in China were left to die without hearing the gospel because it was not convenient for people to go to China. He was speaking to Christians. He told a story of fishermen who found it not convenient to leave fishing to rescue a man until they were offered recompense. When the listeners were horrified he challenged them about the millions with no chance of hearing the gospel.
    Someone else may have details more accurate than my recollection.
    Katherine Fishley

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