Bystander Syndrome

In 1964 in New York City, Kitty Genovese was attacked for 30 minutes outside her apartment building. She died as a result of the brutal assault.

A police investigation revealed that there were 38 witnesses. These were people watching from their apartment windows. But not a single one called the police. Even as the attack continued for THIRTY MINUTES.


Two sociologists came up with a theory: No one did anything because they thought someone else was going to do something. It’s called Bystander Syndrome.

It’s the week after Easter. And I’ve been talking about how the resurrection of Jesus compels and energizes us to be a people of hope. In 1st Peter 1:3 the apostle Peter calls it a “living hope.” It’s not dead, but living. In other words, the hope we have isn’t something we just have to wait for—it’s something we’re invited to live out today.

And let me tell you, hope is water in the desert, especially in our society when a lot of people feel hopeless.

So live a living hope. Get out there and do it. It’s not someone else’s job. It’s yours. If you are a follower of the resurrected Jesus, and if you’ve been assured of God’s powerful and hope-filled future, you are invited—no, summoned—to be a person of living hope… to speak hope, to show hope, and to offer hope to the people around you.

Don’t succumb to Bystander Syndrome. The result of standing on the sidelines of discipleship is a life of grey. Instead, light it up.

Not only will the people around you benefit as a result, but you’ll be a faithful witness to the resurrected Jesus.

Today, be hope.

By Matthew Ruttan

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