How Do You React to Apathy?
ONE of the hardest things to endure is to be misunderstood. It is equally discouraging when a person to whom you are talking is apathetic toward you. You feel frustrated in not being able to “put across” your point, a point you may know is very important to him.
Jehovah’s witnesses find that, more and more, the general spirit of the people today is one of apathy—apathy toward the Bible and toward looking into something that deals with their morality or their prospects for better world conditions. In fact, many do not even want to think unless there is an immediate material, tangible benefit involved. Thousands are completely dispirited, tired of listening—they feel that there is just no use.
Why is there such widespread apathy? There are many factors. One is the failure of the world’s religions to bring about the looked-for results. The churches have not brought unity and peace. Rather, they have supported earth’s most devastating wars. Then there is the credibility gap between the world leaders and the people, so that people tend to look askance at promises made by anybody.
Also, almost everyone is busy—really busy. Particularly in the so-called “advanced” nations the people are “locked” into a complex system that takes virtually all their time. Of course, if they really knew the value of the Bible and appreciated the reality of God’s purpose to deliver mankind, they would lay aside some things in order to get a better knowledge of Bible truth. Most, however, do not have the spiritual motivation to make the effort. Jesus Christ pointed to the reason when he prophesied about “the conclusion of the system of things,” saying that “the love [for God] of the greater number [of professed Christians] will cool off.”—Matt. 24:3, 12.
Are you one who shares in telling the “good news of the kingdom” to others in this time of the end? Then, knowing why this situation exists, you should not be discouraged. Instead, you should be moved with pity for the people, as Jesus was. (Matt. 9:36) The great majority of the people did not accept what Jesus taught—they did not get the sense of it. Yet Jesus’ warmheartedness and persistent acts of love toward them provide an example for us.
Think also of Jehovah God’s long-suffering. He could immediately bring an end to this system of things, with its constant reproach upon him. But he endures it because “he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) And his long-suffering has proved worth while, each year more thousands becoming his Christian witnesses.
GOD’S WORD EXERTS POWER
Furthermore, think of the power of the message you are taking to the people. The truth of God’s Word is not empty, like the propaganda of this world. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Actually, God’s Word “pierces” and brings out what the true inner spirit of the person is, and what he really is in his way of life—his entire “soul”—his outward conduct.
Therefore, when you speak the word of truth to a person, it sets to work in him, with results. Speak to people who are now Jehovah’s witnesses and note how many heard the truth when young, or had some contact with the truth on and off, with years in between, but it never left their hearts. Then, at some future time when their hearts became ready to respond, Jehovah caused the long-dormant seed of truth to grow, and they became his dedicated, baptized servants.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD
One of the thousands of such examples is the experience of an Indonesian couple who were staunch members of a church of Christendom. One of Jehovah’s witnesses had called on this couple and had left the book “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie.” He had made return visits on which he encountered great opposition from a priest of the church. Finally the couple told him that they had decided to discontinue further discussion with the Witnesses.
About five years later, this couple happened to be on an airliner on which there was an international group of Jehovah’s witnesses bound for a convention. Two Witnesses sitting next to them began to talk about world conditions and the Bible. Immediately the Indonesian couple listened with interest. They also observed the good conduct and the happiness of the Witnesses, and that there was real love and brotherhood without hypocrisy among them, regardless of their color—black, white or yellow.
On returning to Indonesia, the couple were again called on by Jehovah’s witnesses. They immediately arranged for a home Bible study and began to attend the Witnesses’ meetings at their local Kingdom Hall. Daily this couple now study a portion of the Bible for themselves by use of the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In a letter to the Witnesses they met on the plane, they have expressed thanks to Jehovah for getting them in touch again with his witnesses.
A DIVIDING WORK
The proclamation of the “good news of the kingdom,” therefore, reveals what is in the heart. God sees the heart reaction and helps the ones whose hearts are right to warm up in their love of Him and of what is right. A division of people is brought about, for or against the Kingdom.—Luke 11:23.
We expect the majority, however, to react just as Jesus foretold when he said: “They were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. But on the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.”—Luke 17:28-30.
HOW YOU CAN ATTACK APATHY
What can you as one of Jehovah’s witnesses do in the face of the general apathy? Rather than be discouraged, adopt the long-suffering attitude of God. Do not “give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Gal. 6:9.
One of the “fine” things is your door-to-door preaching. You can improve its effectiveness by analyzing what causes the apathy in your neighborhood. If one approach does not work, change tactics. Sometimes it might be good to approach the homes at a different time, or on different days of the week. Again, you might try making a thirty-second offer of a book or magazines. When people see you coming they may envision an extended discussion for which they do not feel they have time. A very brief approach may surprise them, favorably.
But many people will not be apathetic toward you if they really understand the purpose of your call. They do not usually know what the goal or purpose of Jehovah’s witnesses is. Some may view you as fanatical or radical. Others may feel that your work is ‘just another religious movement,’ selling literature or seeking joiners. You might try opening up with the statement that you are there because of love of neighbor, that there is little of it today, and that people need help and understanding. Then you could explain how this help can come. You may not be able to give a full explanation the first time, but by your calling again and again over a period of time, the people eventually get acquainted with you and they begin to see that you have no political or commercial aims and that you are sincerely endeavoring to help them. As you find some interest and perhaps have Bible studies, the word gets around even more widely as to what you are doing and what you are encouraging people to do. Then the right persons will eventually be located and helped, either by you or by other Witnesses.
So, whether the people speak well or ill of you, or whether there is just apathy, keep going. Keep your spirituality high by a more intensive study of God’s Word. Fill your mind with the truth, and it will flow out. It was in Jeremiah’s bones like a fire and he could not hold it in. (Jer. 20:9) Jesus said: “Every public instructor, when taught respecting the kingdom of the heavens, is like a man, a householder, who brings out of his treasure store things new and old.” (Matt. 13:52) Keep bringing out the good things to the public. As Jehovah told Jeremiah: “Go; and everything that I shall command you, you should speak. . . . Do not be struck with any terror [and, it might be added, any discouragement] because of them, . . . I have made you today a fortified city and an iron pillar and copper walls against all the land.”—Jer. 1:7, 17, 18.
The wise inspired writer of Ecclesiastes said: “In the morning sow your seed and until the evening do not let your hand rest; for you are not knowing where this will have success, either here or there, or whether both of them will alike be good.” (Eccl. 11:6) Remember, God is the One that makes the seed grow. Too, circumstances change. Consequently, where there has seemed to be no result, suddenly a certain neighborhood has blossomed out with many persons manifesting interest in the truth.—1 Cor. 3:6, 7.
Think also of the good that the prophets of old did. Not only did their words have tremendous influence at the time they prophesied, but they have had even greater impact today. Likewise, your preaching can have results beyond your fondest imaginations, in various ways aiding many others to gain eternal life under God’s kingdom.—1 Tim. 4:16; Jas. 5:10, 11.