Lamentations 2:11 My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city. (NIV)
I have a confession to make: whenever those ads from UNICEF appear on my TV, I cannot bear to look at them. They usually depict children in foreign lands who are suffering from famine or disease, war or violence. When I see mothers struggling to feed their malnourished babies or watch children suffering from shell shock, my eyes water, a lump is felt in my throat, and my hearts breaks. I feel absolutely powerless to change their circumstances, so I curse the evil perpetrators of such inhumane and cruel things. My indignation is satisfied, my feelings are appeased, and my outrage is justified, so I just quickly move on when the next commercial appears.
Later that night, I wake up in the wee small hours of the morning, still bothered by those images and feeling guilty about my indolence. I recall Edmund Burke’s statement which is constantly quoted, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The words afflict my conscience and I feel terrible about being ineffective. I then congratulate myself for remembering the quote and that it was Edmund Burke who originally expressed them. After giving myself an academic pat on the shoulder, I turn over and get back to sleep.
The next day, life’s routine keeps me busy and I have forgotten about the plight of the shell-shocked kids and starving babies. I go about my work happily and deal with a flood of emails, messages, projects, and tasks. They immunize me from what is tragically happening elsewhere, so I get to conveniently deal with some First World problems which require my wisdom and skills, talents and time to resolve. At the end of the day, I feel quite satisfied with my accomplishments and sit down to enjoy a healthy meal while watching my TV. And then some little child is shown in high definition on the screen screaming for her mother and my delusional tranquility is gone.
This is our world, not my personal domain. This is the same planet, not my individual haven. This is the same nation, not my exclusive home. I am shell-shocked by my own shame. I am spiritually starving because of my lack of compassion. I am inwardly diseased because of my indifference. I need to curse myself because I am an agent of cruel insensitivity. I need to be cleansed because my dispassion has contaminated my soul. I need to be honest, deep within myself, and claim the blame for empowering evil by placating my powerlessness.
Like Jeremiah of old, I cannot be silent anymore. I cannot choose complacency over discomfort. I cannot allow self-righteous delusion to cover the multitude of sins that I cause. If I truly want things to change for those screaming children and malnourished babies, then those changes must begin with me – my lifestyle, my attitude, and my disconnectionalism.
Prayer: O Lord, forgive me for forgetting others who need my help and not my horror. In Your Holy Name, I pray. Amen.
John Stuart is currently the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to send him a question, comment, or message about this post, please email him at Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s Liberty pieces called “Light of Liberty.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Liberty.