I have had many conversations over the years–about church stuff, mind you–with church leaders or volunteers who have expressed a perspective that in a nutshell, goes like this: “I don’t care what’s happening in other ministries. I’m only concerned about what’s happening in my ministry.”
I’m busy building my own kingdom over here, and good stuff is going on. Don’t bother me with the larger kingdom. I just read an article today about Lent, in which Pope Francis writes: “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Pope Francis’ context for his address involved caring for the poor, a critical issue in the world today. I couldn’t agree more with his statement or his call to care about others. He states that the world suffers from a “globalization of indifference.” I agree. Even the church suffers from it, about the poor and about other Christians.
Indifference comes in many forms. It comes in ignoring need, and it comes in ignoring motive. Indifference is an attitude that pervades relationships and actions and even intrudes on our church lives. After all, church people are neighbors. Co-workers are neighbors. Natives in the Amazon are neighbors. Just read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Everyone is our neighbor. You don’t get to pick.
Here’s the kick in the pants–We can be indifferent to helping others while we’re helping others! We can be serving others and at the same time, be angry about serving them. We can do good for some people and at the very same time, be rude to other people. We believe we have the right to choose who and what to care about.
We can trample our own consciences by trumpeting our many virtues. And before you know it, the good we do in this needy world is not about the world at all. It’s about feeling good about ourselves. Because charity is a popular pastime, you know. Just ask anyone who puts “feeding the homeless” on her resume. Non-profits profit us givers a good bit.
I suggest a heart check. Why do you do what you do for other people? Or why don’t you do anything for others at all?
Indifference, after all, is just one of the many forms of self-centeredness. (Kingdom-building is another.) I’m only saying this because I sometimes I don’t care either. And that’s a dangerous way to live.
image from equussantafe.com
Check out Luke 10:29-37 here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+10%3A29-37&version=NIV
Or this great article from TIME: