Apathy is not one of the aggressive sins. In fact, many good people are apathetic. They do not do anything that is terribly evil, but that actually is an awful sin in the light of what is happening all around us today.

Indeed, one of the major spiritual and moral sicknesses today is this very sin. It is the sin that Jesus dealt with in the lives of the Laodiceans in the book of Revelation when He said they were “lukewarm.”

Shakespeare dealt with the problem of apathy in his classic work Hamlet. “The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!” (Act 1, Scene 5).

Certainly, Hamlet recognized the crookedness, the wickedness, the brokenness of his time. He was right in recognizing this fact, but he was wrong to resent having anything to do with putting things right. Hamlet was also wrong that anyone, even a prince, a king or for that matter a queen, could heal the brokenness and sickness of any age.

In reality, all things, not just our times, are sick. Sin’s DNA infects all people and brings tragedy and suffering beyond description. The symptoms may vary and the tragedies and suffering differ from place-to-place and time-to-time, but the sickness is the same in any age or time.

In Hamlet’s day it was the evil political plot of a brother who betrayed his kingly sibling in a wicked play for the throne of power. This story was made even more evil when the dead king’s wife married her brother-in-law as he took the throne of her husband, his brother.

There are some lessons in this ancient play that might benefit some who are caught up in the drama of our political infighting and character assassinations of today. The story of

Hamlet portrays much about such wicked behavior. How does anyone set right a thing like this? Can any individual be the doctor to such a wicked number, a whole company of sick people?

Of course, Hamlet’s real hope was not that this situation could be corrected and salvaged, but that there could be vengeance dictated. It was, he believed, an effort to “get even,” to guarantee justice for the favored. Such an effort would cost him his life.

The final scene in this sick story finds a stage full of dead bodies, the murderous king, the treacherous wife, the vengeful Hamlet.

All sick people; terribly sick times; but nothing good coming from it.

What are the symptoms of our times that mark our sickness? Here are just a few that we should seriously consider:

REBELLIOUSNESS that strikes out at God and His law, the morals that He has established making people insist — “who are you to tell me what to do?”

RELIGIOUS RELATIVISM that smiles at all religions, insisting that all are going to the same place and that all roads lead to God, all religions being equally good, right and sound; if you are sincere it is all right; you’ll make it.

PSYCHOLOGICAL MANIPULATION that cons people into doing what otherwise they would not do or find satisfying.

HUMANISM that insists all our conduct can be measured by human standards and problems are not sins and they can be solved by human effort; the Ten Commandments don’t matter.

LEGALISM that seeks to set things right by insisting on obedience to a rigid set of rules and laws with varying forms of punishments and rewards.

ETHICAL CONFUSION that stalks the land declaring that right is wrong and wrong is right, depending on who is speaking or showing it.

IRRESPONSIBILITY that drifts through life, neglecting duties, taking and not giving anything because after all am I not entitled to what I can get and keep.

RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM that is selfish, independent, bulldozing one’s way through life, running over whoever may be unfortunate enough to get in the way of whoever is bulldozing to get their way.

LYING RIGHTS that most politicians and many others claim as they fashion untrue tales about themselves and their enemies to justify their evil deeds.

These symptoms are mind-boggling and heart-rending.

One of the most terrible symptoms that relates to these we have listed is apathy. Apathy, spiritual passivity, is dangerous because it doesn’t appear to be serious.

Apathetic people do not go around hurting people, killing people or damaging property. The apathetic person is not vicious or violent. He just doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t feel strongly about anything or anyone. He earns a living, raises a family, may even go to church. He doesn’t have any zest or vitality. He doesn’t have any enthusiasm about anything.

The spirit of apathy afflicts our world, particularly in our churches today. Christians should not be apathetic, but unfortunately most are today. They have given in to do-nothing-ism.

Apathy, spiritual passivity, marks so many lives today. What can we do to overcome apathy? It can be done. Indeed, it must be done. Here is how we can do it.

Paul tells us in Colossians 1:3-5, “We always thank God ... when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.”

Here is what we need to overcome apathy, to replace the spirit of indifference and do-nothing-ism. We need to pray! When we pray we need three words that are in this Colossian passage — faith, hope, love.

We must have them active in our lives. Faith anchors us in God’s power and presence as manifest in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Through faith we are brought into the life of God, filling us, freeing us. Faith brings us to the reality of Jesus’ power and presence, reaching out and grasping God’s heart and hand. Faith, hope and love generate the dynamic of prayer.

Faith is grounded in Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus is not dead. He is alive and because He is alive, we have hope and that hope is powered by Jesus’ Holy Spirit of love. Where Jesus is there is faith, hope and love ... and a God who hears prayer. Confronting apathy we can overcome it.

I want to encourage your confrontation of apathy to overcome it.

— Dr. Jerry Hopkins is a historian and retired university professor.