One semester of college, I studied the role of organized religion in genocide under a Jewish professor of German descent. Over 70 members of his family were victims of Nazi concentration camps. He shared story after story of his family and other families just like his. He shared with overwhelming heartbreak and defeat.
At times, I tried to put myself in his shoes. How would I view the world if my grandparents fell silent in an act of pure hatred? How long would I grieve? Would I ever let go of the pain? Would I become cold?
I imagine I would.
Elie Wiesel once wrote, “Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.”
Elie was a Romanian-born, Jewish American writer, a political activist, and anything but cold-hearted. He dreamt dreams of peace and unity; he was fervent for change. He was also a survivor of the Holocaust.
People like Elie amaze me. His life, his hardships, his story — I cannot imagine. Yet, through it all, he lived as a pillar of hope in a broken world, while I, one who has suffered little, often find myself in a place of apathy. I joke about having a room temperature personality, but behind the joke is a sliver of truth. Some call it steadiness. I call it indifference.
Indifference is defined as “one who shows a lack of interest or concern; mediocre quality.”
I have a natural tendency to reflect mediocrity. I know this about myself, and I believe the first step in nourishing an area in our lives is being aware of where we are lacking growth. I must be aware of my weaknesses so these weaknesses do not take over my life and more importantly, my relationship with Jesus.
I have learned ways to proactively fight my battle with indifference.
In Philippians 4, Paul shares his wisdom with the church in Philippi…
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” –Philippians 4:11-13
If I had a dollar for every time I heard or quoted Philippians 4:13, I would not be starting the next phase of my life financially insecure. If I had a dollar for every time I truly believed and walked in the freedom of Philippians 4:13, I would have roughly three dollars in my savings account.
Philippians 4:13 is truth.
It is comfort. It is strength.
But it doesn’t end there.
Paul continues in Philippians 4 by sharing the secret of exchanging indifference for contentment in Christ…
“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you, Philippians, yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:14-19
I can imagine Paul reclining at a table with his closest friends, sharing joys and trials over a hot meal at the end of a long day. I can imagine him uncontrollably laughing and mournfully crying as he shares life with his brothers and sisters in Christ. I can almost hear the pleading prayers and the silent meditations they shared as they wholeheartedly pursued Jesus together.
I can picture this so clearly because God, the giver of good gifts, has seen me fit to receive a community like this one.
And that’s my secret weapon in battling indifference — my community.
Having a community of believers who will not allow me to remain uninterested in the God of Heaven and Earth, the God who calls me by name, the God who calls me His, has made all the difference.
This community is not easy. It’s really hard and it hurts because these girls do not allow me to hide. They do not allow me to lie. They do not allow me to run. They do not allow me to remain unchanged by the power of the Holy Spirit.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the floor of my best friends’ apartment as we shared Scripture together. I stared into the flickering flame of the Advent candle as one of my closest friend’s shared her struggle with selecting pieces of her life, the pieces she didn’t really care about, to submit to God’s control. As she shared, God convicted my heart – I, too, have not given God control of my future out of fear.
Then, one of my sweet friends challenged my heart once again. A few days later, we fasted together and prayed for God to teach me to trust Him.
A true Biblical community is hard to come by.
It reminds me of a platoon. We must truly learn each member – our strengths, our weaknesses, our personalities, our characteristics. We spend hours together and each shared conversations or experience strengthens our bond. And at the right time, individual, ordinary soldiers mature and transform into a cohesive army. This army of believers works well together – complimenting each other and pushing each other in the direction of victory over the enemy. Soldiers do not allow their fellow (wo)man to remain the same, but they are always aspiring to be more than they are, to be more like their Commander.
As a believer, our army is important. It’s vital. Who you choose to do life with will determine whether you submit to and reflect Jesus.
Friends, I urge you to be proactive in choosing your army.
Does your army challenge you to wholly pursue Jesus in all areas of your life?
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” -Hebrews 10:24-25
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” -Proverbs 27:17
Does your army truly share life with one another?
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” -James 5:16
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” -Galatians 6:1-2
Yes, letting others wade into the mess of your life is going to be tough. True community requires honesty, vulnerability, grace, truth and love. At times, you’ll want to quit, or at the very least, run and hide.
Do not run from community, do not stray away from authenticity.
It’s hard, but community is so, so good. Life lived together is a life well-lived.
If you don’t have one, I challenge you to find your army. If you do, I challenge you to take a step in sharing life together more fully and more deeply.
Take some time this week and pray for God to lead you in your next step towards finding or strengthening your relationships. Pray for opportunities to share real life, the good and bad, with fellow followers of Jesus.
Do not be afraid of depth, dear friend. The risk is great, but the reward is greater.
“Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.”
I have had moments, and even months, when I was not living. I was once dead, an indifferent soul, but because of His great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). This truth, along with the encouragement and tough love from my community, demolishes my indifferent nature.
I am praying for you, dear friend, as you are battling indifference or choosing your army. You are not alone in your pursuit of an engaged life.
And always remember, you are fully known and fully loved by Jesus.
The truth of that is anything but indifferent.