On March 13, 1964, a young woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered in Queenes. Two weeks after the attack, the New York Times ran a story that there were some thirty-eight witnesses to the crime. But no one wanted became involved. Thirty-eight people watched a young lady assaulted three times, and they watched her die. No one, however, interceded in any way – not even to call the cops. Kitty’s death may have been prevented had someone simply decided to get involved.
Think of the souls you see every day. How many of them are dying spiritually? How many need us to become involved in their spiritual lives? With how many of them do we study the good news of God’s word? Too often, like those witnesses to Kitty’s death, we just don’t get involved.
We make many excuses about our lack of involvement. We claim to not know enough, but II Timothy 2:15 says the remedy to that is simple: study. Ephesians 5:17 calls on us to understand that word. Think of all the things you’ve learned in your life — a specialty, how to cook, trivia and information that fascinates you. We can put the same energy into our study of God’s word that we do into those other topics.
We may believe we don’t have anyone to study with, but think of the numerous people we see every day. How many people do you tell when you have a piece of good news to share — around our workplace, on Facebook, with perfect strangers. Matthew 10:38 calls our world a field in which to sow the seed of God’s word. Everyone we meet is a potential recipient of God’s word.
Unfortunately, we sometimes decide those people are unwilling to hear God’s word. I Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to share the hope within us, but we may fear ridicule or rejection. II Timothy 3:12 and Matthew 10:35-39 both warn us that we will indeed face that rejection we fear, but we can’t let that stop us.
We cannot be timid when it comes to God’s word, and we need to be seeking God’s approval more than man’s. Romans 1:16 calls the gospel God’s power of salvation. Do we truly believe that. Are we really unashamed of that good news? What will we say when we see those souls again on the last day? John 15:1-2 warns us against being cut off for lack of bearing fruit.
We should be making every effort to share God’s word every chance we get. We should be actively involved. Matthew 5:13 calls us the salt of the earth, and verse 14 calls us the light of the world. We must be active sharers and doers of God’s word if we are to fulfill the roles. We cannot be like those who just stared out their windows when tragedy struck one of their neighbors. We need to be involved in saving souls.
This lesson was first delivered in 2011. Since then, the New York Times has run a follow-up on the story stating that the original account was flawed and exaggerated the extent to which the neighbors understood what was going on.
While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital.
I wanted to preserve this lesson in its original form, but I also feel its important to share updated information since the premise of the message was inspired by real-world events.