Title: Apathy
Category: Emotional Issues
Subject: Apathy

This information was not authored by the Editor, rather the Editor serves as a contact person. This information was provided by the office of Keith Hamilton with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

The word "apathetic" is best used to describe a person without feeling; one lacking in passion. A quick glance among church members or Ministers could find such people. A person can focus too much on the negative circumstances of life. That person can lose proper perspective on Jesus' teaching. "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete" (Joh 15:11).

The end result of the tragic tale of apathy is that the victim has given up on trying the next thing that was suggested. Though the person is alive, they are not well. Though they may have all of the outward appearances of things that would make them happy, they lack the underlying fortitude that sustains their optimism.

The great prophet, Elijah had an experience of apathy. He had just demonstrated his faithfulness to God. A peak experience had allowed him to see the power of God. A great victory had been witnessed. But he heard the voice of an enemy more loudly than he heard the direction of his Lord. He hid. He came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 King 19:9)

This powerfully therapeutic question can have a profound impact on the life of the person to whom it is asked. God had asked Adam and Eve a similar question when he came to see them in the Garden of Eden. The LORD God called to Adam, "Where are you?" (Gen 3:9) This question helps individuals become more curious about their stage or phase of life than about their location in relation to longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, or their chronology.

One of the great opportunities afforded to Christians is their capacity to see how attitudes and actions affect circumstances beyond the present here and now. Great strides have been gained to understand and describe how the thought process affects the nervous system that issues in certain actions or behaviors. Scripture is clear to say that there is a connection between thoughts and action. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Mt 15:19).

No other time in history has it been more important for the Church to offer a passionate witness concerning the efficacy of God's transforming grace. The Church, compromised by apathetic members will allow itself to be seen as ineffective and outmoded. The Church still has good news to tell the world. However, its voice can become a whisper if subjected to constant internal struggles. If today's Church is to be a well functioning body as God calls it to be, it is advisable for its members to go through a process of answering the questions that God asked Adam and Eve, and Elijah. The Church has been gifted with tremendous hope Eph 2:12. This hope has been the life preserver for many biblical giants.

* From his struggles, the Psalmist learned this truth about hope and with it was able to persevere through many valleys. "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer" ( Ps 94:19).
* At a moment when his listeners needed encouragement, Isaiah redirects their thoughts. "Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance - all who seek the Lord! Consider the quarry from which you were mined, the rock from which you were cut! ( Isa 51:1)
* "I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was locked out of life and imprisoned in the land of the dead. But you, O Lord my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death! When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD" (Jon 2:6-7).

"Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us [to have complete joy.] They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God''s promises" (Romans 15:4). In these times, we learn how to exercise our faith. "What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen" (Heb 11:1).

Therefore, to further counter apathy, Christians can ask themselves a third question, "where am I going?" The computer company, Microsoft, formulated this question; "where do you want to go today?" The Christian has a great deal of control in this matter. However, apathy thwarts one''s ability to answer this question with promise. Relying on circumstances to formulate assumptions is not as profitable as exercising faith. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23).

Will Bacon

Georgia Healthcare System

Helpful Material To Read On This Subject:

* Apathy in the Pew
Don M. Aycock / Bridge-Logos Publishers / January 1988
* Been There. . .Done That: Apathy
Jeff Diedrich / Positive Action For Christ / January 1996
* Peacemaking without Division: Moving beyond Congregational Apathy and Anger
Patricia Washburn,Robert Gribbon / Alban Institute, Incorporated / January 1986
* Sins of Omission: A Primer on Moral Indifference
S. Dennis Ford / Augsburg Fortress Pubs., Publishing Hse. Of The Evangelical / May 1990