“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds… Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough for us to find our way back? – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

That seems to be a relevant quote for the times we are living in. I feel completely overwhelmed right now. By life. Mostly by the sheer amount of tragedy and suffering that seems to be going on all at once. Whether it’s the Terry Schiavo case, or the shooting rampage in Minnesota, I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed because I have never seen so much tragedy in my ministry, as I have this year. Maybe I’m overwhelmed because I watched the documentary Invisible Children last night.

Not only am I overwhelmed, and feel helpless, but I am outraged at how numb, and how little I can care about what is happening all around me at times. We can become so numb to the tragedies of life and sufferring, and poverty, and injustices, that we completely ignore it. We can get in our nice cars, go to work, eat out at expensive places, and pull back into our nice homes, and not even think about what is happening all around us.

I am reminded of something that I saw when I was visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever had. And as you leave the museum you are pointed to modern day holocausts and genocide that is going on now, such as in the Sudan. How did I not know about this? Millions of people dying, while we go on living our lives, without much of a care. And as you leave the museum, you are confronted with these famous words from Pastor Martin Niemoller, who was well aware of the evils of this world, and what happens when we ignore, or become complacent to them:

A poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, Berlin, 1939.
Niemoller was a pastor in the German Confessing Church
who spent eight and one-half years in a Nazi concentration camp.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

There is some debate to what he actually said, and so here is the other version as written in the congressional record:

The exact text of what Martin Niemoller said,
and which appears in the Congressional Record,
October 14, 1968, page 31636 is:

“When Hitler attacked the Jews
I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church —
and there was nobody left to be concerned.”

You get the point! Things are happening all around us, and we can become so numb to what is going on, that we eventually completely ignore or turn away from it. We do this because it does not concern us. But that is a tragedy. Why? Because one day it may concern us. But more imporantly, as Christians, as followers of Christ, we should be the first to enter into the sufferring and tragedy of life, and to be a light and a hope to those around us, whether it specifically concerns us or not. Why are we more concerned about what some Hollywood star is wearing, or where they are eating out at, than we are about the tragedies and sufferrings of life all around us?

We should not allow these things to happen around us, while we simply sit and watch. We need to be a voice in this chaos.

Maybe God is tugging at your heart, and asking you to get involved. To move out of our comfortable suburban lives (of which I live), and to be moved to action.

“AS he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

May we be moved with the same compassion as Christ, and to enter into the lives of those around us, especially those that are suffering. May we not sit around on the sidelines with passionless lives, while people suffer, and life is devalued. May we not be the silent witnesses that Bonhoeffer is talking about.