Let’s take a sensitivity test. How disturbed are you when you hear about reports of persecution, deprivation and ruination of the body of Christ? How do you respond when you encounter decay and depravity in the church? Are you sensitive or desensitized about any of these developments? Simply put, indifference is defined as ‘lack of concern, interest or sympathy’. This seemingly innocuous definition easily masks the fact that indifference is a sinful act. Though not directly mentioned in the rendition of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, both Moses and the Lord Jesus proclaimed its opposite the greatest commandment (Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Matthew 22:37-40). We need to deal with indifference because God hates and condemns it (Amos 6:1-6). We need to address it because it is a snare that can rob the believer of eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus (Revelation 3:14-19).
Signs of indifference: Indifference is very subtle as it is often unspoken. But ultimately action or inaction speaks louder than voice. Firstly, indifference manifests as self-centredness or selfishness. There is only interest in personal comfort and welfare without any concern about others. King Hezekiah demonstrated this attitude when he was content to keep silent because the prophecy of ruination of Israel would not happen in his time (2 Kings 20:14-19). Secondly, indifference manifests when concern and sympathy are dampened by assessment of potential risks of intervention. Queen Esther escaped this condition because of her positive response to Mordecai’s avuncular admonition (Esther 4:1-17). Thirdly, indifference manifests as lack of recognition of what is at stake-not getting the big picture! This was the condition of King Saul and the Israelite army gathered against Goliath and the Philistines until David arrived the scene and discerned the cause (1 Samuel 17:19-29). Fourthly, indifference can manifest as self-righteousness-unwillingness to come down from supposed spiritual Olympian heights to empathize with the perishing and downtrodden. This was the error of the Priest and the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
People who refused to be indifferent: There are very good examples of Godly people that refused to be indifferent in their time that we can emulate.
Father Abraham: In Genesis 14, we hear of the story of Abraham going to war to rescue his nephew Lot. Now this incident happened not many years after the separation of Abraham and Lot. Note that Abraham would have justifiably refused to get involved based on grievance and perception that Lot had made a choice. But Abraham got involved when he heard of the captivity and made great sacrifices to deliver Lot and the kings and peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah. Years later, Abraham would still go on his knees to intercede for God’s mercy concerning Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot continued to live in (Genesis 18).
Nehemiah-the builder and revivalist: The story of Nehemiah is that of a child of God that chose not to be indifferent to the state of the people of God in his generation. When he heard about the condition of Jerusalem and the remnants, Nehemiah mourned, prayed and acted (Nehemiah 1&2). Note Nehemiah’s response in today’s first reading. Firstly, he became angry when he heard the outcry and complaints. In other words, he was so sensitized as to develop a burden (5:6). Secondly, he seriously reflected on what to do (5:7a). Thirdly, he rebuked the guilty with the word of God and provoked them to repent and restitute (5:7-13). Fourthly, Nehemiah acted what he preached. He generously and sacrificially met the needs of the brethren. Even though he was rebuilding the walls, he personally catered for 150 brethren (5:14-19).
Our Lord Jesus: Our Lord Jesus came in human form because He refused to be indifferent to the fate of fallen humanity (Isaiah 53). He got involved by preaching the gospel, saving sinners, healing the sick, delivering the captive and raising the dead (Luke 4:18). He preached against indifference in the Beatitudes (Mathew 5) and Parable of the Good Samaritan. He warned the church to beware of indifference which would grow in the end-times (Matthew 24:12). Even after the ascension, Jesus warned the church of indifference (Revelation 3:14-19). He mourned and acted to address moral decadence and unholiness in the Church (Luke 19:41-44). He sympathized with the bereaved, mourned over their loss and wiped away their tears (John 11:35). Contrary to the prevailing self-righteousness of the religious leaders, Jesus stooped low and associated with sinners in order to show them mercy and save them (Luke 7:36-50,19:1-10). Jesus was not indifferent to the frailties and hunger of people around Him. He provided food for them. In the story of feeding of the five thousand, we see that quite contrary to the attempt of His disciples to avoid the responsibility of catering for the multitude by opting to send them away, Jesus insisted that they must be fed from available resources (Matthew 14:13-21). Even while on the cross, Jesus took interest in the plight of those around Him and interceded for them (John 19:25-27; Luke 23:26-42)
Conclusion: Therefore, if the contemporary church is afflicted by the virus of indifference it is not because of lack of a heritage. Abraham, David, Esther and Nehemiah all showed the way. Jesus Christ- our perfect example -was consumed by zeal for the Father’s house (John 2:17). To be Christians indeed we must be like Christ in this aspect also (1 Peter 2:21-25).