Submitted by Jan on Tue, 21/04/2015 – 14:11
Year B (2014-2015)
Bible Book: 1 John / 1 Johannes
Verse: 16 – 24
A member in the congregation is ill. I do care. I even pray. Yet, I never contact him or her, I never enquire about the person’s health from mutual friends or other members of the congregation. I never respond. That is indifference – I do care, but I am not able or willing to act on that care. Indifference is what this scripture is about.
I am the first to accept that the example does not deal with the complexity of human life and relationships. I hope however that it makes the point that indifference does not imply a negative attitude. Indifference is the result of not doing. Indifference is the breeding ground of stigma. It allows demeaning words, suspicious attitudes and discriminatory practices to remain unchallenged. Indifference affirms demeaning words, suspicious attitudes, and discriminatory practices.
We can only challenge the indifference in ourselves when we begin to lay down our own lives for the sake of others. Christ did this so that I can live (16). I then also take the risk to challenge indifference and to fight stigma. I take the risk that people will oppose me. I take the risk that I will be alone in positioning myself with those labeled as not worthy of the acceptance and respect of society.
Discipline is a key to challenging indifference and fight stigma. I have to respond. I have to act and love those in need (17-18). This is even more necessary when they are the outsiders and they are stigmatized. If I walk past them, I affirm their low value. I agree that they are disposable, because we do not need them to be part of our community. When I love them through deeds of compassion, I obey God’s command and I live in an intimate relationship with Christ (23-24).
A disciplined life is a life committed to the will of God. It is also a life of prayer. It brings the needs and the pain of the stigmatized to God in prayer. A committed person of prayer is also one who is committed to love. A person of prayer and love is a person who can testify how faithful God is, and what difference God will make in the lives of people. We ask and receive, because we ask and respond (21-22).
This life of disciplined and committed prayer and love bears an important fruit. I grow in confidence. When I repeatedly witness the life-giving influence of prayer and love, something happens in me. The more I see the stigmatized freed and empowered because of the love of God’s children, the more convinced I become of the relevance and the need of the gospel in this destructive world. I grow confident that God’s life-giving vision for people and creation is a worthwhile vision. When I see how this vision is realized, I act again and again.
Indifference bears the fruit of stigma, of death. Love is the breath of life. I make the difference when I prayerfully and filled with Christ-like love, choose to act.
To think about:In which way does your community (church or organization) promote indifference? Look critically at the ways you act and the words you speak when you are together in meetings or worship services. How can you model new ways of acting and speaking to overcome indifference?
Written by: Rev Johan Pieters, a minister at Fontainebleau Community Church and trained Churches, Channels of Hope’ Facilitator.
Author: Pieters J (Rev)