Everything from children being bullied, women being verbally harassed and assaulted by "boyfriends", underage public drinking and more have been highlighted on the show. Unfortunately, the majority of bystanders usually walk by and ignore the situation. But it is always refreshing when somebody stands up and speaks out against the wrong they are witnessing or reaches out their hands and voices to help those in seemingly desperate or perilous situations.
After this conversation yesterday I was doing some reading when I came across something that Martin Luther King Jr. once said:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."
On the episode that showed a young teen being verbally assaulted by her boyfriend (all actors) a man stood up and threatened to call police, turning his anger on her boyfriend verbally, voicing that he had no right to treat her that way. Afterwards, when he was interviewed he noted that he couldn't help but think of his daughters at home and how angry he would be if he ever saw them treated that way. When he had been yelling at the young actor that played the verbal assailant he had questioned the young man, asking how he would feel if his daughter was someday treated that way. The young actor retorted that he had no daughter, he didn't care.
Ah...the issue of empathy arises. Empathy and action. The man who had intervened had empathy...he tied in what the girl was going through with his experience of being a father of daughters. He knew that young girl was a daughter of someone, held precious at one time as a baby, consoled when feelings were hurt as a child, and now being abused verbally in public and in need of a defender.
Sometimes it's not easy to step out and speak up for someone who is a victim. Though, that it is becoming less and less excusable. Most people fear for their own safety on such occasions, but with the fact that most people now carry cell phones and have the opportunity to safely walk away from the situation and then call for help anonymously (which many still never do on that show who have cell phones), what really could be the excuse for not doing so? More troubling is the question...why wouldn't they? It's noted that most times when a bystander stands up to an assailant that that's all that is needed for a deterrent, or even if it isn't it oftentimes spurts on other bystanders to get the courage to stand up as well. Just one person standing up can change the whole situation around.
What do these type of scenarios mean for us Christians? Let's go back to the idea of empathy. Sometimes there are people we might never relate to. How can we still feel empathy towards them? How can we still feel empathy for a child, even if we never have had a close connection with one? Or how can we still feel empathy and compassion for a black homeless man addicted to heroine when we might find ourselves as a white upper class citizen who has never had anything beyond an aspirin and has never known being cold beyond our ski trip excursions to the Alps? How can we relate to people when our realities seem world's apart?
I'd like to give a five word answer that settles it for me anyways. Ok...sit back...here it is:
Christ is in the child who you see slapped up against the head at the grocery store. The eyes of Christ are looking back at you as you walk by the man who is holding up a sign to work for food. The eyes of Christ are staring blankly at the cluttered garbage lining the streets, wrapped in the scantily clad garb of prostitutes.Christ is in us all.
When we start to see Christ in everyone...when we start to recognize the fact that salvation is not meant for just those who have stuck to the rules and laws of man and have bought the clothes that come with flashy labels but also those who are alcoholics, who have stolen, abused and even murdered others...then we open up our capacity of compassion to encompass all of humanity. And I feel, when that happens, anyone that sees Christ in someone cannot possibly walk away from Christ when he is being abused, when he is being slapped, beaten or verbally accosted. It is our duty to stand up and raise our voices against the condemned, against the abused because without Christ we would all be condemned.
So, I have to ask, if you were a bystander watching something wrong happening, what would you do?
We thank you for bringing us safely into another day. Thank You for Your great mercy, Your grace which makes salvation possible. Forgive us for falling short and sinning against you. We pray that You bless us with courage to speak out against wrongs when we witness them, to stretch our hands out to take hold of those who are suffering, even if their differences intimidate us or are hard to understand or relate to. May we see all life as sacred, all life as holding within it the Spirit of Christ and may our compassion and love help be the catalyst for others to recognize Christ within themselves. May the Spirit usher more and more souls to be awakened to Your reality and by that may the whole world resonate with praises lifted high to You.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.