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.