The word bystander usually means or denotes a person who is present at an incident or event but does not take part. For instance, it may be that someone is abusing a little old woman and we stand back and watch without assisting in any way. This message is not to suggest that we do or do not get tangled up in someone else’s affairs, but it is a reminder to all of us that we may one day be placed in a compromising position and need help.
But today I wish to use the word on a greater scale. For I believe we have become a nation and a people who may be referred to as bystanders. I have been searching for a word that would describe who we are during this time of a pandemic and uncertainties. Something has truly struck our hearts and minds in a way that is incomprehensible to me. Yes, here we go again attributing every negative behavior to the pandemic.
We have stood by and watched Russia decimate Ukraine, and the same will happen to other smaller nations if we continue to sit back and watch. Power has always caused us to desire and wish for more power even when life is comfortable and at peace. Are we as a nation afraid that Russia and China will drop a nuclear bomb on us? Or is it that we have become selfish and only concerned about our own well-being?
As a nation we have stood by and watched an insurrection take place with very little consequences. The January 6th Committee has finally completed a report with recommendations, but will it be just another day of accepting bad behavior. The public has stood by and in some cases applauded what the insurrectionist did on that gruesome day.
Our schools are interrupted every day by some means of violence. There are mass shootings and guns brought into our schools on a regular basis. The sad news is that it will continue because we are bystanders watching, not knowing what to do. I would have expected a greater outcry from the entire country regarding the deaths brought about because of guns. Right here in Prince George’s County Public Schools, some of our schools are out of control and we know they are in disarray, yet we are on the side lines just waiting for the next shooting or horrendous act. Truly, I would have thought communities and parents would have been in an uproar by now, but we continue to be bystanders while our children fall prey to someone else’s bullet.
I recently watched a video of a shooting at one of our high schools. I was traumatized by the fact that students who were witnessing the shooting ran towards the incident rather than away from it. Is there no fear?
The latest incident in a school that sent chills through out my body was the shooting of a teacher in a New Port News, Virginia by a six-year-old. Teachers all over the country should be using their voices now saying, “Enough is enough!“ We all know that teachers are underpaid, but this goes beyond pay and falls into a category all by itself, safety.
Parents, we need to wake up and become more involved in our children’s education and well-being. Sending children to a private school is just a temporary fix, for sooner or later our children will have to deal with these realities in the real world. Let’s make sure they are aware and prepared so that they won’t be walking around with their heads in the sand. Some of us may be saying, “That is not my issue, for I do not have children in the schools!” May I remind all of us that this is not restricted to schools in the present, but to the impact on future generations also.
Yes, our political leaders are bystanders as they ride out their time in their political offices. We must do something, but may I be honest with you, I am not sure what the answer is.
As I use this word, bystander, in the message for today, I could not help but think about Jesus’ journey to the cross. The bystanders stood and watched knowing He had done no wrong. It is recorded in John 19:21, “The people stood and watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” We know that this was God’s plan so that we might have eternal life and salvation.
It is said that the women, soldiers, the malefactors, the centurion, the chief priests, the members of the Sanhedrin, the group of His own disciples, the multitudes of people from the surrounding country all gathered to the uplifted Cross of the Son of man. Could it be that these bystanders, like us, knew not what to do because of the forces around them? Were they simply afraid or naïve?
What are your thoughts?
Not a sermon, just my thoughts!
Robert Earl Slade, Pastor