Thursday, August 18, 2011

Altruism vs. Apathy

I cannot think of two concepts more diametrically opposed to one another than those of altruism and apathy. On one hand, you have altruism, which is the very renunciation of concern for ones self, and the exclusive concern for others around you. On the other, you have apathy, which is the complete absence of care for anyone or anything that happens around you. Your only concern is for yourself, and yourself alone.

While these two concepts are polar opposites, they often travel together.

One instance when altruism and apathy showed up at the same place at the same time was when Christ was crucified on the cross.

Christ's willingness to go to the cross and suffer was the ultimate act of altruism in that he had nothing to gain from his suffering, but that the whole world had everything to gain. I've said it 100 times before, and I'll remind you again, crucifixion still stands as the most cruel form of punishment ever created by the human race, and yet Christ-the Son of God, Himself, suffered this for you and me. This is, in fact, the most altruistic act that the world has ever seen.

To take the altruistic nature of Christ even farther, John 19:26-27 explains that at the very height of his pain, while hanging on the cross, Christ's mind was on those whom he loved at his feet. "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." Christ's concern was not for himself, but for his mother, Mary, and his friend, John. Jesus gained nothing personally from making this request.

However, with this amazing expression of altruism came an appalling experience with apathy. The disciple Matthew records the gruesome scene of Christ's crucifixion, but one small detail sticks out to me; the apathetic nature of the soldiers who crucified the Christ.

They knew Christ claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 27:37). They also heard of the miracles he performed that supported his claim (Luke 23:8). They had more than enough reason to believe in and be moved by Christ. However, these men were without emotion. In fact, Matthew says after they hung him on the cross, and cast lots for his clothes, "..they sat and watched him there." (Matthew 27:36).

It is a small detail in the overall large story, but it hits you like the rock from David's sling into Goliath's forehead- right between the eyes. These men knew of Christ's claims, and they knew of the miracles he performed, yet, the Bible says they sat down and without emotion watched Jesus suffer until he was dead.

What is even sadder is that sometimes we can be like these soldiers. Though we know of his heavenly heritage, we know of his selfless sacrifice for us, and though we accept the gift that came from that sacrifice, we sometimes let the world run us down and make us apathetic.

Sometimes because of life, work, home and other stresses, we fall into the category warned against in Revelation 2:4, we become those who "left their first love". Because of our hectic lives Monday through Friday, we are too tired to show love to God on Sunday. And anytime we allow anything to keep us from God, we are no different than those apathetic soldiers. After all, apathy is apathy any way you slice it.

Have we become apathetic or altruistic toward our worship and love for God? Only your heart can answer that, but your actions will announce that decision to those around you.

1 comment:

  1. I know apathy quite well.

    Trust me, you don't much end up caring for yourself, either.