At approximately 3:20 on the morning of March 13, 1964, twenty-eight-year-old Kitty was returning to her home in a nice, middle-class area of Queens, NY, from her job as a restaurant manager. She parked her red Fiat in a nearby parking lot, turned-off the lights and started the walk to her second-floor apartment some 100 feet away. She got as far as a streetlight when a man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the 10-floor apartment building nearby. She yelled, “He stabbed me! Please help me!”
The man left and returned two additional times to stab her until she died before the police received their first call at 3:50. No one left their apartments to help. The many people that “watched” were asked why they did not help. The common response can simply be summarized as “We did not want to get involved!” Social Scientists have called this the bystander effect. In a nutshell, it states that an individual is less likely to help as the number of bystanders increases.
What it really boils down to is the question, “How much responsibility do I have for my neighbor?” It is not a new question. In the Old Testament, after Cain killed Abel, he asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer, of course, is Yes. In the New Testament, when a lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan. The conclusion we are to draw is that my neighbor is anyone who is in need. There are no innocent bystanders.
Obadiah, our Minor Prophet for this Sunday hammers home the same point. Obadiah pronounces judgment on the country of Edom for standing by and even joining in with the oppression when God’s people needed them.
Followers of Jesus are to be people of action. We are to engage with our world to provide light, love, truth and grace. If we do not live in this way, we cannot claim to be living in a way that looks like Jesus. Our Savior did not live out His days removed from the pains and needs of people. He exposed the destructive nature of misplaced pride and fear. He stood up and acted against oppression and injustice.
Let’s notice, listen, act and build like Jesus,
Pastor Nick Mundis