Bystander Apathy or Creation Care: The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations

Categories: Devotional,Genesis,Revelation

In Nazi Germany the average way of life was bystander apathy. Most Germans, surrounded by a selective human apocalypse, kept their concerns to themselves, perhaps thinking, “It’s none of my business—others can help.”

Today, in Jerusalem stands a memorial to those Germans who did not sit by idly. Engraved in stone within “The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations” are the names of 525 German souls who refused to be defined as apathetic bystanders.

The memorial also honors all known non-Jews from around the world who during the Holocaust risked their lives and liberty to comfort, protect and save Jews during that time of destruction.

Almost 25,000 names are etched there on the west side of Jerusalem, names such as the Corrie ten Boom family and Oscar Schindler. These are people recognized by the State of Israel who would not standby idly with indifference to the plight of their fellow man. These “righteous non-Jews” come from 47 nations stretching from Poland (6,394 names) to Vietnam (1 name). From the United States, Israel lays claim to only 3 non-apathetic bystanders (Varian Fry, Martha Sharp, and Waitstil Sharp).

Another kind of holocaust is going on today, one that touches not just Jews and other people groups. It is environmental and it is global. If you do not think so just take a deep breath while meandering through a Beijing hutong, or grab an unfiltered drink from our capital’s Potomac River.

What if on your day of final judgment, God brings up how you cared for the earth?

Evangelical Christians believe we are created as vice-regents of Earth, instructed to, in part, tend to God’s creation. So, it is fair to ask: are we doing all we can now to honor Jesus, “the ruler of God’s creation” (Rev. 3:14)?

One American Evangelical who does not want to be counted as an apathetic bystander with regard to caring for God’s creation is Richard Cizik. He calls on fellow Christians to be known for “our love and care of the earth and our fellow human beings” (Cizik Wikipedia).

Rev. Cizik has issued a profound life challenge. It goes something like this: what if, on my day of final judgment, God brings up how I cared for the earth?

Cizik says it like this:

“When you die, God is not going to ask you, ‘How old is the planet,’ or whether he created it in six days or six billion years. That same God who created us is going to ask, ‘What did you do with what I created? Did you steward it? Did you care for it? Did you save it … or did you destroy it?’

And let’s be clear, that message of saving this which he has created is present from Genesis, the first book of the Bible, to the last book of the Bible. Because in Genesis 2 it says, ‘steward,’ ‘care for it,’ ‘protect it.’ And in Revelation, the last book of the Bible, the apostle John … speaking of God … says … ‘I will destroy those who destroy the earth’” (Cizik YouTube).  

Richard Cizik wants Christians and all peoples of the earth to prepare to answer God and be ready to honestly say, “Yes, I cared for what you created. I was a good steward, I gave serious attention to your earth. I worked to save it.”

Can we, then, all of us, work to be to be named among those who did not sit idly by and think to ourselves, “Creation care? It’s none of my business—others can help.”

Cynthia, my wife, and I coined the phrase at Celebration Church, “Love God, Love Life.”  We believe that Evangelicals are called to love all of life, creation included.

So, like that garden in Jerusalem, can we picture another sacred memorial, one that God is planning for those non-apathetic bystanders of his creation? Let’s imagine that he will call it, “The Garden of Righteous Stewards Among the Nations.” I nominate Richard Cizik’s name to be chiseled there.

Calling all Evangelicals—why not live your life so as to have someone submit your name?

The floor is now open for nominations.

Now that’s something to celebrate!

Author: Pastor Toby

Toby Larson is the pastor of Celebration Church, a husband, and father of 5. Whether it's playing tennis professionally, serving in China, working for NBC, or ski racing in the Pacific Northwest, Toby is passionate about the love of God and the love of life. Read more ...