When it comes to God, the Bible, and the gospel, most people are unresponsive. A few weeks ago, during an event that our church conducted, this truth was highlighted all the more. We had sent out over 5000 invitations to our community for an event that addresses our personal spiritual need, only to have a handful of people attend. Now, I must be clear on something. My feelings are not hurt because people had better things to do than come to our church event, but seeing the response suddenly made me aware of the truth that, when it comes to spiritual things, most are simply indifferent. Sure, when a family member dies, or tragedy occurs, people’s sensitivity for spirituality increases. But for the most part, everyone returns to “normal” fairly quickly, and for good reason, staying in a continual state of shock, sorrow, and mourning is not healthy. But, what is shocking to me is that for the most part, as we transition back to normality, we return unchanged. The event had only a temporary effect on us. Why is that? There could be many reasons, but I think an overarching theme in most people’s lives is that we are simply indifferent. Let me explain what I mean.
First, I want to address what I see in the lives of non-believers of Christ and then I will try to apply the indifference I see even in those who are followers of Christ. Let me clarify what I mean by non-believers of Christ. Surely there are many who claim not to believe in God at all. Others claim to believe in God, but not Jesus. These are clearly non-believers in Christ. But there are many who claim to believe in Christ, but only because they grew up in a Christian circle, maybe were baptized, or if they fill out government paperwork or an application that asks what religion they are a part of they would check a circle that identifies in some way to the Christian church. But, in reality, they do not read the Bible, attend church (except when there is a wedding or funeral), and in general never mentions God’s name unless they are taking it in vain. Biblically, these are non-believers in Christ, for if they followed Jesus, their life would look much different. This is what I mean by a non-believer.
How do non-believers in Christ show that they are indifferent? Here are some of my observations.
- There is little concern for spiritual truth. When they hear what the Bible says about salvation and their need of a Savior, they are unmoved and remain unresponsive. They are indifferent to truth, God, and eternal life. It is not that they are against it that makes them want to attack it; they are just not for it. They are against it affecting them personally.
- This group does live with a sense of guilt for their sins. They might call them errors, addictions, or bad personality traits rather than sins. If they called them sins, they would have to address them with God, thus implying a constant belief in spiritual truth. But, rather than deal with them biblically, they find ways to relieve the guilt. By giving money to a cause, volunteering for a day, helping a neighbor, like a Tylenol, it suppresses their feeling of guilt for a while. The guilt comes back, so they find another cause to give to.
They are my general thoughts of the reasons for indifference found in the life of non-believers in Jesus. There might be more reasons, but I will stop with here. Can they be changed? Of course they can. They need to hear the gospel (good news) of Jesus from believers. But, along with hearing of the gospel, they need their spiritual eyes opened by the Spirit of God so they can see their spiritual condition and their need for a Savior.
But what about those that say they believe in Jesus? Do we see indifference in them as well? Without a doubt…YES! But not in the same ways as non-believers. Here are my reflections on believers, which I am one of them.
- Believers have trusted in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But many are unengaged in the life of the church. Why? They are indifferent to God’s word that speaks to the need to be in close fellowship with other believers, and under the care of biblical leadership. They ignore the New Testament commands to serve their fellow brothers and sisters. They are content to stay home, read their Bible, and call it church. They do this, not out of conviction, but out of convenience.
- Believers have trusted in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But many do not study their Bibles and voluntarily are not part of a small group Bible study. Why? They are indifferent to God’s word that says we need His word in our life to know God more and know His will. They do not see His word as having authority in their daily lives. It is not a priority for them. Making Bible study a priority would cause them to stop watching so much TV and Facebooking. We say we are too busy, but in reality we love other things more.
- Believers have trusted in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But many are indifferent to His will. This goes along with my second reason. Because they are indifferent to knowing God’s word, they are indifferent to doing God’s will. Many do not know God’s will. Others, by their stance on the bible, simply do not care to know it. They live their Christian routine, keep their secret sins, and cry «Grace!» when lovingly confronted about sin in their life.
- Believers have trusted in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But many are indifferent to the mission of the church («to make disciples» Matthew 28:18-20). They do not share their faith. They do not give any money to the mission of the church. They do not pray for non-believers to trust in Christ. They do not support missionaries. They might give their time when convenient, or their money sometimes to a cause the church supports, but in reality, they do it only to diminish the conviction they have for not living fully devoted to Jesus. They know Jesus desires people to hear the gospel, yet that truth is not enough to cause them to make a life change to be a part of God’s mission now. They are indifferent because, for them, their greatest treasure is what they can accumulate here on earth. When we see social injustice and hear the number of people who have not heard the gospel, under our breath we say, «that is their problem, I have my own life to deal with».
- Believers have trusted in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But many are indifferent to their need to know God more. They are not pursuing Him. They attend church and might casually read their Bible and pray, but they are not in pursuit of knowing God. The desire to know God more is not important to them. They are indifferent because they satisfied in God’ grace, just not to the point of seeing it amazing.
- Believers have trusted in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. But many are indifferent to their indifference and thus find those zealous to serve Christ as weird and too radical. Rather than supporting the mission of the gospel, their indifference causes them to resist it and sometimes even fight against it. This is a sad commentary, yet a true one. When we look at the words of Jesus, what many call radical and weird, Jesus calls normal. Indifference has water-downed the gospel to the point that normal Christian living has become undesired and attacked. And this is in the church!
Now, some of a believer’s indifference disappears as they grow in their faith in Jesus. With Bible study, prayer, being under good teaching and preaching, and being in close fellowship with other believers, the Holy Spirit transforms a person to think, believe, and act as God would have them. Many are indifferent simply because they have never been told or taught that they should care for and do certain things. But, as they taste the goodness of God, they want more. Because they want more, they pursue Christ and knowing God’s will. And because they do this, they engage in their local church and its mission to make disciples of all nations like the Lord Jesus commanded His church to do. As their life changes, their indifference diminishes. This is what every Christian should want and every pastor and church leader strive for in their own life and the life if the church. This is what we need!
So, how should believers in Jesus deal with their indifference and the indifference we see in our fellow brothers and sisters. Here are some practical applications. But practical application without heart change simply creates religion. So beware of not falling into that trap.
- Admit that indifference to the things of God comes from a prideful heart, not from a heart that loves and treasures God.
- Confess your sin to God, and ask Him to forgive you on the basis of the cross of Jesus and to change you by the power of His resurrection.
- Trust in God’s promises and CHANGE! We do not need to wait for a sign in the clouds to appear before we act. God has spoken. Listen and obey by faith.
- Pray to God like you desperately need Him and want to know Him more. Use Matthew 6:9-13 as a guide.
- Fast in order to know God more. Cut things out of your life in order to grow your desire for God
- Give sacrificially your money to the mission of God’s church. It is all His money anyway. Start with an amount that you can give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). See it as a privilege to be a part of what God is doing through your church and missions.
- Share your faith as much as possible. Pray for your friends and family and then go share the good news of Jesus with them. All people need to hear the gospel.
- Make worshiping God a part of your everyday life. This includes Sunday, but definitely is not restricted to it.
- Study God’s word alone and with a small group with the goal of knowing God more. This will create an accountability system that will challenge your walk with God and help you grow in your faith
- Get involved in a local church. It is impossible to apply many truths of the New Testament outside the local church.
There is more to say about this. I truly believe that indifference is one of the devil’s best attacks on the church of Jesus Christ. If he can keep us asleep and inactive, he might not be able to steal our soul, but he can steal our joy, destroy our witness, and devour our time and resources for things that simply do not matter. While he does all that, there are millions, and even billions, who still have not heard of the gospel of Jesus, and as time ticks away many drift off into eternity unchanged and unsaved. May we, as believers in Jesus, join God in taking His message of salvation to every corner of this planet. May we not be indifferent anymore!