The Aggravating Sin of Apathy

Apathy is probably a universal Christian experience, and it is stunting the growth of millions. Apathy is aggravating, because you sometimes see it in yourself and loathe it. However, you feel powerless to do anything precisely because you are apathetic. What is this condition of spiritual apathy, and how do we handle it?

The Causes of Apathy

  • Material prosperity. One reason why apathy sets in is because of material affluence. Affluence is not merely a material phenomenon; it affects the spirit, too. As we amass creature comforts, there can be a corresponding sag in the spirit — a comfortable, situated, and uninspired sort of spiritual complacency. This is apathy. Living as we are in a world brimming with material prosperity, it can affect any one of us.
  • Trials. On the contrasting side, apathy can set in when we face hard times. For example, perhaps you are facing a difficult situation with coworkers. Every day, you hear taunts from your officemates, ridiculing your God-believing, faith-holding, Bible-reading lifestyle. You are mocked because you refuse to sleep around, get drunk, cuss like a comedian, or view porn. You are scoffed. After a while, your spiritual resolves goes slack. You think to yourself, “is it really worth it?” After a while, your spiritual walk becomes a slow, tired swagger. Eventually, you slide right into the stultifying slog of apathy. It happens with other types of trials — perhaps an extended illness of a family member, or a disease that ends in death. Things like this try our faith, they drain our hope, they sink our spirits. We become apathetic.
  • Coasting. Often, it’s just the hurried, frenzied, and unstopping pace of life that gradually elbows out spiritual vigor and attention. Even in ministry positions, we can become so caught up in the activity of ministry that we neglect the condition of our own soul. We have less concern about our own spiritual life, and more concerns about managing the world around us. These are the conditions of apathy.

The Cure to Apathy

What is the solution to such apathy? Is there any way out of the tired hole of Christian unconcern? Gratefully, there is.

  • Come to a point of absolute assurance as a believer, and live out your reality in Christ. Scripture warns Christians to make sure that they are indeed in the faith. Apathy may be a sign of no faith at all. If you are a believer, than you must live as one. Growing as a Christian is a process, a progressive journey. Generally speaking, Christians don’t start their Christian life with a great deal of spiritual maturity. Maturity grows over time. There are ups and downs along the way, but the general trajectory is more like Christ, not less like Christ. This is called progressive sanctification. God’s will is that we become sanctified (Thessalonians 4:3). If this is God’s will, it will surely come to pass.
  • Intentionally listen to God. In order to shake off the sin of apathy, you can’t wait for some holy zap. You must, by God’s grace, deliberately overcome the apathy. Listen to God, not in a mode of passive receptivity, but by actively seeking and meditating upon his word.
  • Fight sin. Often, the life of the apathetic is a life that is gripped by a damaging sin habit. When Paul wrote the Thessalonians, he said in effect, “There’s good news. It’s God’s will that you grow as Christians. But you don’t just sit around waiting for this to happen. You get busy and fight sin — flee immorality, control your passions, don’t sin against your brother” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6). Sanctification allows us to be moved by God in desperate combat against sin. Be warned:  you’re going to have to fight.

No believer can stay apathetic. Either you are a believer who will grow, or you are an unbeliever who should stop clinging to the false hope of a nonexistent relationship with Jesus. Growing is not an issue of becoming perfect. The Christian life has its ups. It has its downs. But it has the goal of continually moving towards more and more Christlikeness.

4 Responses to “The Aggravating Sin of Apathy”

  1. Lesdia July 17, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    I have been talking about this
    to the choir members at church.
    Sometimes feeling that I have talking to
    a wall, but there is hope, some of them react
    positively

    Lesdia

  2. Andrea Smith July 17, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    This article is great! What hit me the most was “being caught up in the activity of ministry”. I would take that a little further and say that for some belivers, being a believer is an “activity”. It is something else they make apart of their agenda as opposed to being the foundation that they build upon. Matthew 6:33 says “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.” Seeking the Kingdom takes prayer, time and work. It requires us to ask God what is His will, accept His will and then implement His will. When you seek the kingdom, growth has to take place because when we seek the kingdom, we find out what we need to change about ourselves so that “all these things can be added”.

  3. Pastor Anthony A. Jackson July 18, 2012 at 5:51 am #

    Thank you for this article, which confirms what I feel the Holy Spirit is vexed by in the modern day Body of Christ. I intend on using the heart of this message in tonight’s prayer and Bible study. Thanks again, and God bless us all to be more empathetic and altruistic, picking up our crosses and following our Lord like real heaven bound troops!

  4. Ethel Canty Bothuel July 23, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    This is a great conversation that should be taking place in our holy spaces. There is one more cause that may contribute to apathy and that is oppression and even bullying within the church. This is especially true for many young adults (some older adults, too) when they try to live a godly life, participate in church life and make suggestions and are shut down by others; of course they will feel “what’s the use?” and apathy sets in. We all need to embrace the solutions you suggest! When we do this, our churches will begin to model the community of disciples that we are commanded to make in Matthew 28.

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