Do We Really Care?

Given the miserable state of so much of the world, it seems that most people do not really care very much. Apathy and indifference reign, as things continue to go downhill all around us. And so-called Christians are just as guilty of this as any non-Christians are.

Those people who are troubled by what they see, and who cannot just sit by and let it happen, are few and far between. Francis Schaeffer used to speak about the ruling “impoverished values” of our time: “personal peace and affluence”. We in the West seek to just be left alone, not be bothered, and have plenty of material comforts and goodies.

As long as we have that we are content. We don’t want anything to rock our boat, make us feel uncomfortable, or strip away our consumerist pleasures. Life is simply all about meeting our own personal selfish needs and not giving a rip about anyone or anything else. Schaeffer put it this way in How Should We Then Live?:

“Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city – to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity – a life made up of things, things, and more things – a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance.”

Tragically far too many Christians live exactly the same way. All we want is to be left alone and to live the good life. We have forgotten all about the truths of the gospel, truths such as this one: “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16).

The life of Jesus was characterised by concern for others, self-sacrifice, rejection of comfort and ease, and an overwhelming passion to radically transform his world. That then should be what characterises any one of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus.

How could it be any less? Yet we are submerged in an ocean of indifference and lack of concern. We are like the student who, when asked by his teacher, “What is it with you? Is it ignorance or apathy?” replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care”.

We do not have the broken heart of God for our needy and messed up world. We don’t even see the needs out there. We are far too busy looking inwards, navel-gazing, worried about our own self-esteem, and our own personal comforts and security. This has always been a problem for the church – to be comfortable, complacent, and indifferent to what is happening around us.

Fortunately not all believers feel this way. Last night as I was reading one of my favourite authors, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I came upon these moving words, and was most pleased to see he was addressing this very issue. They came from a sermon he had delivered around 65 years ago. And they are 100 per cent appropriate to the situation believers find themselves in today:

“At the final bar of judgment, when those of us who are Christians stand face to face with our Maker, the gravest charge that will be made against us will be that we were so unconcerned. We lived at a time and in an age when the very foundations of civilization were being shaken, when the very world in which we lived was rocking, when we witnessed things such as men have never seen before. We saw the spiritual and moral, as well as the political, declension all around us, and yet we did nothing about it. We were apathetic and unconcerned. We did not feel a great solicitude that would not allow us to rest by day or by night.”

And such a prophetic word has always been a part of God’s word to his people. Writing some 2800 years ago, the prophet Amos also spoke about the cavalier indifference and sinful apathy of his fellow Israelites. In chapter 6 we especially find strong words of rebuke for such attitudes.

Consider this rebuke from Yahweh in Amos 6:1, 6: “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion … Woe to those who do not grieve over the ruin of Israel”. Verse one warns about complacency, indifference and apathy. The people seemed to have everything they wanted – at least in material terms – so they were at ease.

As James Montgomery Boice writes, “There is an ease that should not exist among God’s people. . . . In itself being at ease is not bad. In fact, there are verses in the Bible that invite us to rest or promise rest at the end of life’s labours. [But], there is also a wrong kind of rest about which Amos is talking. It is the rest of indifference.”

As for verse 6, the Hebrew term being used is quite strong: it can better be translated, ‘Woe to those who “are not sick in their stomach” over the sin and decadence of Israel,’ and the fact that it will be under God’s judgment. As Alec Motyer comments, v. 6 points to “the cardinal defect of the days of luxury and lolling: failure to care for the break-up of the state and the broken lives of its people.”

Sounds just like the situation we find ourselves in today. Our societies are crumbling, our churches are disintegrating, and all around us are broken and needy people. But where are the caring Christians? And the first indication of genuine care is caring enough to act.

Those who are not apathetic and indifferent, but are moved by what they see, will be moved to action. Pagans know all about this, so why don’t believers? Indeed, I read a small item in today’s paper which perfectly illustrates this. One greenie cares enough about her cause to actually be doing something about it – even something quite radical.

Consider this story: “A Tasmanian protestor has attracted worldwide attention after spending seven months living in a tree 60m above ground. Miranda Gibson celebrated her 31st birthday last week on a small platform 60m in the air. . . . Ms Gibson’s protest has attracted worldwide attention through social media and a daily blog she writes from her treetop perch in the Styx Valley. Loggers moved into the area in December and Ms Gibson moved up the tree.”

She is aware of what is happening, cares about it, and is doing something about it. Now one may – as I do – disagree with what she is making a stink about, and her rather perverted understanding of things in this regard, but no one can deny that she cares and she is acting on her cares.

Kinda puts most of us Christians to shame. We don’t seem to give a rip about anything, so it is little wonder that we are basically doing nothing about anything. We are just sitting around in our little bless-me clubs, luxuriating in our personal peace and affluence.

Well did Dante write in his famous Inferno: “The hottest level in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in a moral crisis.” Dorothy Sayers also discussed this connection between hell and indifference: “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

Christians of all people should not only be a caring people but a doing people. We should put the green tree-huggers to shame for our zeal, compassion, dedication, care, action and energy. Yet most times we come nowhere close to this. It is as scandalous as it is anomalous for the believer to be this way.

Someone not too long ago posted this very telling comment on my website, about a very famous Christian woman in Holland who sheltered Jews from the Nazis: “I went to see Corrie ten Boom’s house in Haarlem 3 years ago, which is now a museum. There we were told that in oppressive times the ratio of what people do is usually like this: 5% go with the oppressors wholeheartedly, 5% work against them wholeheartedly, and 90% do nothing, because they either don’t care or they are afraid.”

The church today seems to be filled with people who do not care or are afraid. The Bible has harsh words to say about both groups. I hope you are not in either one of these camps. As two young Moravians said as they were setting sail to sell themselves into slavery to reach some Indians on the other side of the world: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”

[1509 words]

13 Replies to “Do We Really Care?”

  1. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Mat 5:6

    You’re absolutely right Bill. We all need to be doing at least something for the kingdom. If we’re not ready to be put out of our comfort zones in the slightest, then how can we say that Jesus is our Lord when he asks us to give up our lives for his sake?

    If we refuse to even share Christ with a lost soul because we fear we may offend them, we are not at all in the will of God.

    Mario Del Giudice

  2. Yes quite so Mario. We are far more concerned about offending people than we are about offending God.

    Proverbs 25:29: “The fear of man brings a snare”.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. You dont need to be like Miranda Gibson and create world awareness. You need only to do one little thing that can have a major impact on society in the future. I believe there are more non-Christian troubled kids out there than there are Christians. If every Christian will mentor just one of these kids for one year, by this time next year the number of Christians would more than double. This is because I know for a fact that when so-called “bad kids” become good through Jesus, often the parents see the miraculous change and will themselves come to Christ.

    Change the life of just one kid, and you could be changing the whole future. He/she could become the great leader that changed the world. This is the Butterfly Effect.

    Eddie Sim

  4. Interesting that Miranda Gibson copied the futile example of Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder – asceticism doesn’t fit with the imperative to rescue the perishing.

    And all she is “doing” is preventing something from happening (maybe?).

    A “house” empty and swept clean, is an improvement on a demon-possessed one, but it invites the return to a worse state (Matthew 12:44-46).

    John Angelico

  5. A certain measure of this–not an excuse, mind you–is a feeling of powerlessness. We look around and become overwhelmed by it all. And there is fear, fear of loss of reputation, of respect, of position, of material possessions, and of life itself. Taking a stand is risky. Making oneself a target takes tremendous courage and conviction.

    Ken Abbott

  6. Thanks Ken

    Sure it is risky, dangerous, fearful, etc. No doubt about it. But it really is the normal Christian life. It is that basic and that fundamental. Either we resolutely stand for Jesus and suffer whatever consequences may come our way – just as Jesus did for us – or we in effect deny him. There really is no middle ground here. We are either for him or against him. And given the hundreds of commands in Scripture to fear not, we simply need to tell our Lord: “I will go where you want me to go, say what you want me to say, and do what you want me to do – and you can take care of the rest”.

    He gave everything for us – how can we do anything less for him? Again, that is simply the normal Christian life.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  7. Dear Bill, I have read on Facebook about a Rally for Life that was held on the 7th July in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There were thousands of people traveling by bus to Belfast from all parts of Ireland, the Republic and the the British part, to show their support for Life. There were also 100 people from Dublin who were pro-abortionists, slightly out-numbered by the pro-life people. It reminds of the song “When Irish eyes are smiling”, especially the eyes of the unborn children. This shows what can happen when people are properly organized and motivated.
    Regards, Franklin Wood

  8. It is not just a matter of indifference and apathy, it is also a matter of what is considered a worthy cause by the zeitgeist, and a matter of why there are many people gung-ho for certain causes as opposed to others. Let us consider the issue of environmentalism. There are many outspoken people for that cause, and the reason I think is this: 1. It is trendy 2. It requires no personal sacrifice in desires (such as being against certain sexual sins might) 3. It is universally accepted as something good (conservatives might disagree about the prioritization of saving the environment over other issues, but nobody advocates destroying the environment)

    What we actually observe in the West is a partial nihilism, where nihilism is selectively-applied – usually to those parts of Christianity which stand in the path of self-gratification, or applied only to enemies’ beliefs. Instead of the dominant secular worldview that permeates the west leading to complete anarchy, it seems that the most secular societies (Scandinavia a prominent example) have very well-ordered and efficient ways of life. High standards in safety, education, employment, satisfaction, cleanliness, healthcare, etc.) It seems that what secular societies get rid of is any morals that interfere with personal gratification, but keep those that lead to otherwise satisfactory living. That is why Christianity is rejected but not buddhism and paganism. Islam will be rejected as well, it requires tremendous personal sacrifice. Truth is of no concern it seems like.

    good essay to read:

    Julian Coelho

  9. Also, we have to understand that Christians are affected by these worldviews and ideas being rammed down their throat all day, they really don’t know if those issues are of major importance as opposed to just fighting for saving the environment since Christians as well as others also believe that is wrong. Christians are not a different species, just humans who are as affected by the satanic culture we live in, their strength gets sapped.

    Also, I feel many think the only thing really left, whether consciously or unconsciously, is the Benedict Option.

    Julian Coelho

  10. So why do we make judgements of those who do make a stand, think Fred Nile, why if you don`t like the man you don`t try another way of making a stand rather than judge him and stand back and keep doing nothing. Yes, we need to choose our battles, and we need to battle wisely, remember who we represent. Thanks for the encouragement Bill.
    Johannes Archer

  11. I think that if we are honest with ourselves we will all admit to this in varying degrees. It certainly makes you wonder what kind of a Christian you are and in some cases, if you are really one at all. That possibility is very, very unsettling!

    Steve Davis

  12. How do we make or encourage people to care?
    I’ve been trying my whole life to get people to see the other side, and not just be a grumbler, to be objective for even a moment. I think some people are prone to caring for others and are maybe born with empathy for others, and yet on the other hand there those who when even shown babies dying feel nothing. Still, I will keep trying.
    Daniel Kempton

  13. This is a message that needs to be shouted from the rooftops in this nation. We need to continually stir ourselves up by reading verses about Hell and meditating upon it. It’s not a popular topic these days…too negative. But we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So if you don’t have that fear, you basically don’t get past first base (no matter where you think you are). I remember seeing one woman comment when she read the story of the little 8 year old who was raped to death by her husband, a 40 year old man, ‘well I’m so lucky, I’ve got boys so it won’t affect my family even if it comes here’. It’s that deception that makes you curl up in a ball and fall asleep in the proverbial poppy field. No wonder we are exhorted to: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Cor. 13:5 We ignore such scriptures at our peril!!!

    Dee Graf

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