Let’s Reverse the Bystander Effect

In 1964, a 28-year-old woman, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York City. A violent attack like that was not all that unusual for the city, but the circumstances were. It seems that a number of neighbors heard the brutal assault and did nothing to help. They didn’t step in themselves, nor did they call the police.

Social psychologists analyzed that violent, yet ignored moment and it became known as the “Bystander Effect.” The idea is that “onlookers are less likely to intervene if there are other witnesses who seem likely to do so.” Loosely translated, that means, “ain’t my job.”

This past Sunday, we got another peak into the heart of our Savior and noticed that Jesus used some 46 different stories to explain heaven. In Luke 10, He used the well-known story of the Good Samaritan to refute that “ain’t my job” attitude.

In point of fact, Jesus asserted that the heart of the Savior is LOVE, and we are meant to reflect that love in any and every situation we can. Truly, the Bystander Effect needs to be reversed. God’s people need to join the Good Samaritan as the heroes in this story.

Granted, we are not all walking down a dangerous road just outside Jerusalem, dodging robbers and crooks. But we all travel the byways. We pass friends, neighbors and strangers alike. To reverse the Bystander Effect, we simply must pause and consider those around us. It means that we need to turn up our sensitivity to everyone God has placed in our lives.

Does that single mom down the street need a break? Can I babysit for her? Does the guy in my small group who lost his job need some financial assistance? Can I mail him a check to help with groceries?

Do I know a missionary that is pretty lonely and feeling forgotten? Can I send a small care package to them? Does our church staff need some encouragement? Could I drop off some fresh baked cookies and silly notes just to make them laugh a bit?

How about that homeless guy on the corner? Can I stop analyzing his situation long enough to give a few dollars for a meal? Can I send a check to one of the organizations feeding the hungry?

At the end of our passage in Luke 10, we see that the one who has mercy on others is the real, caring neighbor. Then, Jesus told us to “Go and do likewise.” And the correct translation of that phrase goes like this: “You, go! And keep on doing likewise!”

You—that is you and me. We are to go and keep doing that kind of caring. Soon, the dumb Bystanders Effect will not work! And we will be in touch with the heart of our Savior.

Sherry Worel


Sherry Worel is a Bible teacher at heart and lives a life of ministry. She’s been involved at Coast Hills teaching Women’s LIFE, Bible studies, online courses, devotionals, participating in Upstream conversations, and much more. Having a love for education, Sherry has over 50 years of teaching experience with schools, churches, and mission agencies. As well as earning her Master’s at Talbot Seminary, she rounded out her education with 35 years as Head of School at Stoneybrooke Christian School. Sherry is happiest with a book or fishing pole in hand.


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