Yesterday, I told you of several appalling cases in which hurting—even dying—people cried out for help only to be blatantly ignored by passersby, both Christians and non-Christians. What's happening? Why the passivity?
Yesterday, I told you of several appalling cases in which hurting—even dying—people cried out for help only to be blatantly ignored by passersby, both Christians and non-Christians.
What's happening? Why the passivity? How can we explain the gross lack of involvement? John Darley and Bibb Latane wrote an insightful article in Psychology Today a number of years ago, titled "When Will People Help in a Crisis?" They pointed out that a bystander will not intervene in an emergency unless he (1) notices that something is happening, (2) decides that this is an emergency, and (3) takes personal responsibility for doing something.
That's worth thinking over. Initially, we must be alert enough to notice something is happening. The event has to penetrate beneath the fog of our private world—you know, our self-centered thoughts and activity and preoccupation. Somehow we have to sense the distress signals of others. But even then we probably won't intervene unless we consciously decide that an emergency is, in fact, occurring. And that means we're ultimately willing to guess wrong . . . or be embarrassed . . . or even get hurt ourselves. Because involvement boldly believes, "This is my responsibility. I really care. Even if nobody else will help, I must!" Risky? You better believe it! On occasion it can be downright embarrassing.
I had a restaurant owner tell me that he once took a first-aid course because he had no knowledge of what to do when people choked on food. He said that he learned many helpful techniques, but the one lasting lesson he'd never forget was this: forget your pride! When you determine you're going to assist someone in distress, roll up your sleeves, kick off your shoes, and jump in full force. Sure, you may on a few rare occasions overreact or plunge your hand into catsup instead of blood . . . but good, genuine Samaritans aren't all that prim and proper. People who get involved are motivated by selfless compassion, a burden of concern that won't stay folded and creased in a book.
With biting honesty James asked:
For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (James 2:15–16 MESSAGE)
John probed even deeper when he asked:
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God's love be in that person? (1 John 3:16–17 NLT)
Hard questions. And too stubborn to shrug and walk out of our heads . . . too tough to smile and let us off the hook.
It's one thing to do a word study on agape. Or diagram the sentence structure in Luke 10. Or mouth a lot of high-powered stuff about the humble, Spirit-filled life. But it's something else entirely to see and support someone in distress . . . or at least call the cops, fast. To do anything less is so un-Christian. So wrong. Sometimes dead wrong.