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APATHY- THE FINAL DEATH BLOW
section 6

APATHY AND CRUELTY

Earlier I spoke of the fact that apathy alone can kill because people might not survive the inaction of those whom would be their charges, but that apathy and cruelty together are a most deadly combination. In our personal lives, neglect would be bad enough, especially in childhood or some other situation where dependence is greater. Abuse and neglect together, however, is a double-bind from which many find it difficult to survive through or recover from. This is because you are told that you are worthless twice, and not just once. Thanks be to God that He is interested in requiring something other than apathy, and He especially hates cruelty.

I have mentioned the state of Israel before she was taken into captivity. Her religion was empty and sin ruled. So rotten was the general state of her society, that justice was no longer found for the poor, and bribes were routinely accepted so that the rich could escape the consequences of their crime. In fact, justice was so perverted that people had to be quiet for the sake of self-preservation. (Amos. 5:12-13)

Finally, it got so bad that the Israelites as a people were to be judged into horrendous tribulation and exile. Through the prophet Amos, Godís best counsel to the individual was to conduct any reversal they could, so that He may have mercy upon the remnant during those wicked times, and the times to come:

Amos. 5:14-15 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. As bad as Israel was, there was still a remnant within on whom God could have mercy. Assyria, however, came to God's attention as worse than Israel: Nahum 3:18-19: O king of Assyria, your shepherds slumber; your nobles lie down to rest. Your people are scattered on the mountains with no one to gather them. Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty? These were a people so wicked that no one would mourn their fall, but instead they would rejoice. Why? Because these people were the collective bully on the block, and everyone had been harmed by their "endless cruelty." Hardened apathy is actually cousin to hardened callousness, and is happy to let cruelty go unchecked. Cruelty, like lust, knows no end to its appetite.

Prior to Nahum's words, the Northern Kingdom (of the nation of Israel) had been carried into captivity by Assyria almost a century before (722 BC). Now Nahum prophesied against the city of Ninevah, which was the greatest city in the nation of Assyria. Although Ninevah was no better or worse than Israel for harlotry (Nahum 3:4), God knew she could not be roused or awakened from her sin by any means, so she was to be disposed of. Ninevah fell utterly and completely thereafter in 612 BC.

You may recall that Ninevah was the same city that at an earlier time, was warned by the prophet Jonah and saved from destruction. Yet this time, Nahum prophesied that the situation was beyond the possibility of redemption. No one warned her to repent and be spared. Instead, she was slated for total destruction and notified only as a matter of courtesy. This might fly in the face of those who would like to believe in a God who gives endless chances to a nation or an individual, but this is not reality. Obviously, God is perfectly capable of deciding all bets are off, the deed is done, the contract is signed, and the sentence is as good as done. Such was the case with Ninevah.

Similarly, a lot of people tell themselves that they can get away with a lot because the wrath of God is not visible or immediate. Surely God is pleased because they have believed and they say they love God, right? But as Scripture says so many times and in so many ways, this is pure foolishness. Reality will come to fruition, some day, in this world or the next. For if our deeds are evil, how do we continuously escape the wrath of God (Matt. 7:23)? Death is always around the corner, and how much are we willing to risk because of our apathy?

Matt 25:32-46 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." TWO COMMON CAUSES OF APATHY: FEAR AND SELFISHNESS
  Amos 5: 12-14 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil. Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. The prudent do "see danger and take refuge", (Prov. 27:12), as in this instance while the while the times were evil in the nation of Israel. Everyone understands self-preservation, but higher wisdom is to fear the Lord and hate evil (Prov. 8:13). Thus, under difficult circumstances, there is always a tension between choosing to self-preserve and choosing to sacrifice, and which is the better choice. God, in this instance through Amos, purposely exhorts the people to "seek good" in spite of their circumstances. That is, they are to do the best they can, with the promise that God will be with them.

When the innocent and helpless suffer because of the wicked, God is grieved once. When the evil doers remains unchecked and unchallenged, God is grieved twice. I dare say that this is the same way the innocents generally feel. As for the guilty, God knows what is in a manís hearts, and sees and judges not just the wicked, but those who tell themselves they cannot intervene to save when really they could do more for the poor, the fatherless, the orphan, or the victim. Being courageous is more honorable than being a coward, to both God and man. Doing something is better than doing nothing, unless there is a more strategic time to take that risk for a better outcome. Fighting on behalf of the oppressed is indeed a war.

Legalists though, are likely to wonder who is worthy of their time and attention rather than simply obeying God's directive to love their neighbor (Luke 10:29). They are busy finding a way out. They are not much different than the rich man in another parable Jesus told (Luke 16:20-26), who "lived in luxury every day" and yet "at his gate"(very close by. He would have to walk past him) lay the beggar, Lazarus. Certainly it is clear that the rich man paid Lazarus no mind, until he was in dire straits himself, in hell. That is because the rich man in this parable thought only of himself. He had no idea what it was like to be a beggar, and never gave it a second thought, until he was put in a similar position of suffering and begging.

It was not that his riches were evil-- it was his heart. In fact, not one of the less than virtuous characters in the parables Jesus told, whether it be the unforgiving servant, the hireling, the servant who buried his talents or a host of others, cared for anyone but himself. Jesus taught against narcissistic behavior so often and in so many ways, that an unselfish attitude should well be considered a major attribute of the Christian faith. His apostles echoed these teachings to their charges:

Phil. 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 12:9-11 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

We cannot love while we are being selfish, and indifference is not love. For instance, if we really loved God with all our heart, mind, and strength how could we be indifferent toward him? And if we love ourselves enough to know that God places value upon us, then why would we not value the welfare of our neighbors as much we know God would? If we really love God or others, we would do so not only in lip service, but in action too: 1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

 
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