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.
- v. 10. They have acted with violence toward Israel.
- v. 11. They stood aside and did nothing. They didn’t lift a finger.
- v. 12. They gloated and rejoiced over their misfortune.
- v. 13. They even looted their goods.
- v. 14. They not only offered no help, they even turned people over to the Babylonians.
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,