So I sit down on my comfortable sofa and I grab the remote, switch on the telly and I start channel hopping. I finally find something good to watch, and although I’ve missed about 15 minutes of it, that’s ok. Oh, the adverts have started now, “That meerkat advert is so annoying” I think to myself. So then I wait patiently for it to finish, only the next advert comes along, and it’s showing an overtly starving and malnourished child, looking at me, and sure, you know where this is going “Every year hundreds of people die of drinking unsafe water” “Please donate £3 a month”, “It could help provide water purifying tablets for 10 families”…
Now you and I know what type of adverts these are. These are the sad TV ads pleading with you, the viewer, for help, to donate money. It has sad music, shows footage that really gets to you, and has a sad narrator voice asking you to donate and support their charity. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I switch channels maybe after a few seconds of seeing the poor child, pretending I didn’t see anything. Sometimes I’ll go off and grab my dinner from the microwave. Sometimes I’d just watch it and switch off mentally, not letting the visuals or words penetrate my heart. Why do I do this? Do other people do this too? Is it just me?
Truth is, a lot of people, myself included, really don’t like hearing all these negative things. Seeing pictures of the third world countries. Hearing how they need help. It is better to pretend we didn’t see or hear anything.
I have a confession to make. Before moving to Birmingham nearly 2 years ago, I was the type of person who would choose not to want to know these things. Switch the channel right away. Choose not to read the traumatic headlines in the news [especially those that didn’t affect me and my world]. I would prefer not knowing that this or that country is experiencing severe corruption within their government. I really didn’t want to know about how many people were being kidnapped and forced into trafficking.
Truth is, God has always used the people around me to force me to come face to face with these real-life-issues, so much so, I wouldn’t be able to ignore it. I was once invited to a friend’s movie night, where someone decided it was a good idea to watch “Amazing Grace” where I learnt all about William Wilberforce. Other times, I was made to watch other movies such as “Taken” or even “Blood Diamond” which really disturbed me watching a representation of child soldiers (which still affects me to this very day). Truthfully speaking, I’ve never liked these dramatizations of real-life-affairs. And honestly, I would never choose to watch them if given the chance. People usually put it on and I just so happen to be around for the movie night, and feel obliged to watch.
But before Birmingham, I wasn’t forced to think about these issues as much. And then I met someone who really believed in standing up for real-life-issues, to be a voice for social-injustice and to raise awareness of this or that charity or cause.
The question I asked this person was “Why do you email me all these articles to read? They’re so depressing….” I explained that sometimes it’s just so depressing, why read depressing things? Sometimes I don’t want to read them, it makes me uncomfortable or sad. I don’t like them. Most people don’t like them. Most people ignore these things.
But why though? Why do we play ignorant to the needs of those suffering? Why is it better to not know these things? Why don’t we do something about it? I think part of the reason is that we don’t realize what is going on in other parts of the world, or we choose not to know. I’m guessing it’s because ignorance is bliss. Another reason is that we’re so consumed with our own lives, busy running it that we forget about the poor and forgotten folks. I know another big reason is that we want to protect ourselves; we don’t want to know too much because we’re afraid of becoming sad or depressed, it bursts our happy bubble. We don’t want to care too much for fear of experiencing pain—we’re actually more inclined to prevent our own pain than in relieving the pain of the oppressed.
Jason Carr wrote in his book Orphan Justice, “in our concern for an easy, happy, comfortable life, we may be missing the heart of the gospel—to seek and save the lost, to reach out to the forgotten and the oppressed, to love sacrificially, and to pour our lives out so that others can catch a glimpse of Jesus.”
And that’s it. Through time I’ve discovered that my friend doesn’t love these depressing things, but rather has great compassion for the people that God loves. As Christians we are called to show mercy to the merciless, support and speak up for those treated unjustly, to fight for the oppressed: this love is the heart of the gospel. Are we following Christ on our own terms? For our own comfort?
I must admit, through my time here, God has been challenging my heart through seeing the world through His eyes. Developing compassion for the oppressed. My eyes have been opened to issues that are usually ignored. And although some scenes disturb me, I know God moves people to compassion and love, because everyone in this world deserves His love.
I wouldn’t say I’m as compassionate as my friend. But I know my eyes have been opened and I’m starting to be more aware of the world we live in, and how God wants us to be a catalyst for good.
That said, we may not be called to directly go and fight for the oppressed. But we are called to love. It starts off by learning about it all and not ignoring. And then to demonstrate this love by really praying for them.
Last week was Week 2 of our Missions March Month, and we’ve been praying for China and the persecuted Christians around the world. It’s not some nice topics to learn and pray about. But I guess this is something small we could do, to intercede for the oppressed and those struggling.
To end, I’m reminded that in worship we sing: “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” And I ask myself, how can I sing that in a prayerful manner when I ignore all the real-life-issues of this world? It breaks God’s heart when people are still being sold into slavery. It certainly does break God’s heart to have people being persecuted for their faith. Why are we stopping it from breaking our own hearts?