Bishop Fulton Sheen was a Bishop who was known for his preaching, television and radio work during the 20th Century. An ordained priest of the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, he once made a statement saying: “I wonder maybe if our Lord does not suffer more from our indifference, than He did from the crucifixion.”
This was a powerful statement, because one of the biggest enemies of our Christian faith and our personal relationship with the Lord is something called “indifference”. But what does it mean to be indifferent?
The Oxford Language Dictionary describes indifference as a lack of interest, concern or sympathy. It also means apathy, unconcern, aloofness, detached or disinterested. So, I can understand what Bishop Sheen was trying to say because there are so many people who seem to have no thought or interest in God or church. But what Bishop Sheen was truly honing in on was not so much those that do not know the Lord, but about God’s own people who at times seem apathetic toward Him and in matters concerning His Kingdom, though they may come to church week after week and year after year. And primarily, it is their personal relationship with Him that suffers. And I totally understand that battle.
Over the years, I have found myself having to battle against apathy and indifference when the busyness and pressures of life came at me. And there were times when I had to push through it, though it was not always easy because the temptation to succumb to not investing in my relationship with the Lord seemed much easier than investing the time to put into it. But I also knew the fruit of giving in to that indifference could result in weeks, months or possibly years of apathy toward my private time with the Lord, which we all know is the source of our strength. And this was a pattern that I did not want to develop in my life.
Jesus, when addressing the Laodicean church in the book of Revelations had this to say:
Revelations 3:15-16 – NLT – “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
Whew! Pretty strong words from our Lord, but the truth is He would rather us be one or the other; hot or cold (the much preferred would be “hot”). Lukewarmness, which is equivalent to being indifferent, does not work for Him! So, we have to ask ourselves where are we when it comes to our personal relationship with Him? Are we hot or cold? Are we passionate or apathetic? Are we enthused or indifferent? As we step back and examine ourselves from time to time as the Scriptures encourage us to do (2 Corinthians 13:5), we can evaluate whether we have lost our first love, despite all of our busyness, even in church matters and whether we need to slow down and take some time to spend developing our relationship with the Lord.
If there was ever a time in our lives when we need to put an emphasis on our personal relationship with Him, it is in the days that we are living in now. With all the turmoil going on within our country and our world, we need to walk close to God more than ever!
The story of Martha and Mary, two sisters who lived in a certain village that Jesus and His disciples were passing through while on their way to Jerusalem give a good example of one sister who made time for what was most important according to Jesus.
Luke 10:38-42 – NLT – As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
There is nothing wrong with staying busy, but when our constant activities keep us away from spending quality time with the Lord, “sitting at His feet” and “hearing what He says”, we can begin to develop a pattern of indifference that could develop into a long-lasting problem. And none of us really want to get caught up in the snare of apathy long term because it can be very hard to break! So as the Scripture says in Proverbs:
Proverbs 4:23 – Amplified Bible – Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
I want to encourage everyone to “watch over”, or, as some translations put it, “guard” your heart with all diligence so as not to slip into the snare of apathy and indifference. If you find this happening to you, ask the Lord to help you. He is an ever-present help when in need (Psalms 46:1). Remember the Scripture in Hebrews which says the following:
Hebrews 4:16 – NLT – So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Never be afraid to approach Him when you feel like you have fallen short or you are struggling in your relationship with Him. Sincerely ask Him to soften your heart and He will. And seek out the help of those in church leadership, or a good friend who you know is solid in the Lord who can pray for and with you to break the strength of the indifference that has developed in your heart over time.