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Looking the Other Way

How often do I see injustice and fail to act?

Several months ago, within the span of about two weeks, I received two separate e-mails that were so disturbing they made me feel physically ill. Both depicted atrocities—one against an African man; the other against a litter of puppies.

Later while watching the news, I saw a video of a girl in a McDonald's restaurant who was beaten to the point that she went into convulsions. No one stepped in to help. Everyone just watched the girl curled in a corner having a seizure. Even the "videographer" didn't stop recording to care for or aid the victim.

As I watched these videos, my first thoughts were, Why didn't anybody stop this? Why didn't anybody help? Where's the justice?

I thought about the old saying, "Ignorance is bliss." I realized there is truth to that saying. It's easier, less messy, to look the other way. To go about our business and think, What's it got to do with me?

If you're like me, you can see those injustices on the nightly news or on the Internet and wonder what you would do if you were on the scene. Would you act? Or would you stay on the sidelines, in shock, paralyzed and unable—or unwilling—to step in?

I've done both.

When I lived in Chicago, I rode public transportation everywhere. One day, I noticed a man standing close behind a woman wearing a backpack. She wore earphones and was oblivious to what was going on around her. I watched the man quietly unzip her backpack and slide his hand inside. My jaw dropped. I looked around to see if anyone else saw—several people were watching him too.

Immediately I felt a righteous indignation swell up from deep within me. I became angry. And in the next moment, I stepped over to him, grabbed the arm that was now fully into the backpack, and said loudly, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, mister."

He was shocked! A 20something, sweet, little girl had just taken him on! He pulled his hand out, but didn't say anything. As soon as the next stop arrived, he jumped off that train as though it were on fire.

I looked around again. Everybody saw and heard (except for the potential victim who was still clueless). But nobody else acted.

Before I get too smug about my superhero role in fighting justice, though, I think back on the many times when I didn't act: The time when I was walking down the street and saw a man get mugged, and I simply moved to the other side of the street and kept my head down. The time when neighbors or coworkers made fun of an "undesirable" and I didn't speak up. And I'm ashamed. Yes, ignorance is bliss.

When I watch the news now, I pray for God to grow in me a righteous indignation about the right things, and a willingness and ability to step out and do something. To call it wrong—whether it's someone being mugged, or an elderly woman being cheated, or an animal being mistreated, or …

God doesn't call his followers to be ignorant of what's going on in the world. He calls us to get out of our comfort zones and move into the world with eyes wide open. If we're to be genuine in our faith, then we must heed and act on God's words in Hosea 12:6, "Act with love and justice, and always depend on him."

As Christ-followers, we have powerful weapons to change the world. You and I have a lot more influence and muscle than we realize. But we have to start using them.

Injustice can be overwhelming. Just listening to the news each night can throw me into a paralyzed state, unsure where even to begin.

Those are the moments when I've learned to pray, "What do you want me to do, Lord?" And then as I wait for his answer, I pray for the strength and courage to be obedient, and for wisdom to say and do as he leads, when and how he leads.

If at the end of our lives God asks us, "Did you live justly? Did you do everything in your power to fight against injustice and oppression, obediently rising to the call to make a difference in the lives of the oppressed and hurting?" May you and I be able to look at God and answer truthfully, "Yes, Lord. Yes."

Ginger Kolbaba is editor of Today's Christian Woman and author of numerous books including the soon-to-be-released The Old Fashioned Way. www.gingerkolbaba.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Ginger E. Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba is the author of Desperate Pastors' Wives and The Old Fashioned Way. Connect with her on Twitter @gingerkolbaba.

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Compassion; Courage; Guidance; Injustice; Obedience; Service; Social justice
Today's Christian Woman, November/December , 2012
Posted November 19, 2012

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