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:
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?
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:
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.
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