“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” -Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel was no stranger to horror in his life. Born in 1928 in Romania, he faced the atrocities of a Nazi Death camp as a 15 year old boy. In 1944 his family was sent to Auschwitz, and by the time freedom came for him, his father, mother, and younger sister had died at the hand of the Nazis, along with at least 6 million other Jewish people. Wiesel went on to write many books, and even became a Nobel Peace Prize winner. His words have impacted millions, and his experiences remind us of the darkest parts of humanity. In 1999, from a podium in Washington D.C., Wiesel spoke of the pain and suffering that he experienced all those years ago. He also spoke of the inhumane acts that flood our world to this very day, and how they must be stopped. When referring to the wickedness that humanity enforces on one another, he could have used many words to remind us of evil. Hate. Murder. Rape. He could have cut at the hearts of his listeners with stories of how he watched children die in the arms of their mothers. He could have made his experience come to life by reminiscing about the sounds and smells of those things that will forever be etched into his memory. Instead, Mr. Wiesel focused on one word. Indifference. He reminded his audience, and the world, that perhaps the most dangerous thing that we face is the attitude of indifference.
Indifference is simply having a mindset that is void of concern, interest, or sympathy. We all experience it. Our lives are full of news reports and twitter feeds that remind us of what is going on in our world. If you are like me, your response to the atrocities that you hear about is often one of indifference. When some far away evil is acted out on others, we don’t like it, but if it is far from our lives and homes, we are usually not affected. Not physically. Not spiritually. Usually not emotionally.
In the life of a believer of Jesus Christ, indifference is the most dangerous of mindsets. It takes us far away from our duties and responsibilities as disciples of Jesus. It causes us to read Scripture in a careless way, and to act on our beliefs in an even more careless way. How can one do battle against an attitude of indifference? How can we do as our Lord Jesus commanded when He said to “Love our neighbor as ourselves”? To love and provide for the poor and destitute? First we must correct the hardness that is in our own hearts.
I have learned a few things to practice in my own life to guard against this spirit of indifference. They have helped me, and I hope they will help you.
It is one thing to look on the sins of others with indifference, but completely another to look on our own sins with indifference. I do my best to remind myself everyday of the fact that I have offended God with my sins. Without Jesus, I am wicked at heart and deserving of retribution. When we allow sin to occupy our lives it seems to cover us in a layer of indifference towards wickedness. In Matthew chapter 4, Jesus went about preaching to whoever would listen. His message? Repent. The word repent means to turn away from the sins that you have practiced. It also means that you pay attention to the fact that you do participate in sin. Scripture teaches us that a repentant heart pleases God. If God truly embodies righteousness, and He does, we should long to be righteous in our lifestyle. If God truly embodies love, and He does, we should strive to be near to Him. Repentance also makes one focus on the fact that without Jesus, their is no possibility of righteousness or pleasing God. It is Jesus who allows us to experience the forgiveness and love of God because He satisfied God’s punishment towards sin when He gave His life on the cross. Having an attitude of repentance seems to make God’s love for oneself and love for humanity come into clearer focus. This allows us to respond to sinful people with an attitude of love and care, instead of an attitude that is void of care or concern. Not only on a basic human level, but also on a spiritual level, because we will long for the world to experience the satisfaction that only Jesus can bring them.
Get into God’s Word.
You cannot know the heart and mind of God apart from the Word of God. He has given us the Holy Scripture so that we can learn how to please Him, and learn that He has given us a way to please Him through Jesus. It will also help to lead you to a place of repentance. It is impossible to care for people like God does if you never learn how much he cares, and what he has done to show how much he cares. If you are experiencing an attitude of indifference in your life, go the Bible. Read it. Study it. Ask God to teach you the truth that is found in it. Whenever I align my heart with God’s Word, an overwhelming sense of sympathy towards others fills my heart and mind. You may just find that your feelings of indifference turn to concern and love; and from there you may be driven to action.
This may sound simple, but it is not. Most people do not engage in action against something offensive or evil until it has affected them personally. But once you understand God’s greater plan and love for humanity, you will want to do something. The question really is, “What can I do?” You can start by caring. You can start by praying. You can start by loving. Once you see and understand God’s action plan toward humanities wickedness and injustices, you will want the world to see it too. There are many organizations and groups that reach out to the fallen and downtrodden in our world today. But there is not enough of them. There are many people who are involved in reaching out into the dark parts of our world, the parts that most of us never even think about. But there is not enough of them. You and I can be a part of making our world a better place, whether it be in our own neighborhood or town, or across our country into the world. Even small actions can be the biggest force to fight against the feeling of indifference. There is a world full of people who need you to care. They need to know that Jesus loves them enough to die for them. They need to know that you care enough to tell them.
Join me in fighting against the attitude of indifference. Not just for our sakes, but for the sake of all the people near us who feel at this moment that no one actually cares.