Deuteronomy 21-23, Psalm 60
On March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Queens, New York. The attacker Winston Moseley, initially followed and stabbed her outside her apartment. He heard something and temporarily fled. She had called out that she had been stabbed. Her initial wounds were not mortal as she made it to the vestibule of her apartment building. Moseley returned moments later to the scene and raped her and stabbed her a total of 13 times. Two weeks after the murder, what was most staggering was that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack but chose to do nothing about it. None of them even bothered to call the police. From this, they coined the term "the bystander effect" or "Genovese syndrome". This story should be troubling to anyone, believer and non-believer alike. The problem is though the events may vary, it continues to be played out on a regular basis. Most people in society still don't want to get involved. We are shocked by stories of people who are victimized while others just stand by and do nothing. Even worse than that, the new thing is not only to do nothing but to record the event on our cellphones then publicize it afterward. I remember watching on television a terrorist in London who cut off a police officers head with a knife, with no one helping, but instead videotaping the event on their phones even allowing this man's rant to be publicized.
We read in Deuteronomy 22:1-5,"You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any of your brother's, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again." These commands were given for their neighbor's possessions, how much more should they be followed concerning their family members or their person. Scripture clearly commands us to not be selfish but to help others. Many have heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, told by Jesus. The story begins in 10:30, with a man being victimized on the road to Jericho. The first two people at the scene of the wounded man were a priest and a Levite. Two of the most religious members of society. But rather than assisting the injured man, they passed him by on the other side of the road. It wasn't until the Samaritan, normally an enemy to the Jewish people, who chose to assist the man as a neighbor should. The passage in Deuteronomy addresses the frequent sins of omission rather than the sins of commission-failing to do what's right rather than overtly doing what is wrong. James writes in James 4:17, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
The other day, I was at the end of a long 10-hour day of seeing patients. I had dinner plans that evening, though I was running a little late, I would probably make it close to on time. My last patient of the day was a long-standing patient of mine. When I asked her how things were going, she immediately broke out in tears and told me how she just found out that her husband had been cheating on her, and that her life was in a state of upheaval. That 15-minute visit became around a 40-minute visit, for more than an annual exam, she needed to hear about Jesus, the One who would never leave her and never forsake her. This was a God-given opportunity to someone in need. I would like to say that I never miss these opportunities, but at times I do. We all have these situations frequently. God places opportunities right before our eyes, but are our eyes on Jesus or are they distracted on something or someone else. When God offers us these opportunities do we step out in faith, or do we like the bystanders in the Kitty Genovese story choose to do nothing. May we all keep our eyes open and as Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: