Good Neighbors Pay Attention

Fight for Awareness

Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan illustrates that good neighbors pay attention to the needs around them. If our hearts are preoccupied with our own circumstances, our minds fixated on our own schedules, and our eyes glued to our phones, we will miss opportunities to show mercy.

We must fight for awareness. It’s easy to forget particular expressions of poverty and oppression when they don’t affect us. Theoretically, I know that children die of hunger-related causes every day. But in my comfy suburban neighborhood, that reality is difficult to remember. There aren’t malnourished children sitting on the curb of my street who I can invite in for dinner. Need isn’t always visible in my day-to-day life. So the only way for me to be responsive to many types of suffering is to intentionally look for it.

The problem is, it’s natural to avoid thinking about the harsh realities of life in a broken world. Some situations are so devastating that we’d rather refrain from dwelling on them at all. On more than one occasion, I’ve been guilty of bemoaning, “That’s horrific. I don’t even want to think about it.” But yielding to this inclination never drives us toward compassionate action.

Go and Do Likewise

Amy DiMarcangelo

In Go and Do Likewise, Amy DiMarcangelo explores how the gospel compels Christians to extend God’s mercy in their everyday life—displaying his compassion, justice, generosity, and love to those who need it most.  

What if that had been the attitude of Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, Dutch sisters who helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II? The realities of the Holocaust are so hauntingly barbaric that some try to deny it happened at all. We don’t want to believe that such large swathes of people could act with such measured ruthlessness. I imagine Corrie and Betsie were tempted to keep their heads down—to just generically lament the terrors of war. Instead, they opened their eyes to an entire people group that was being hunted down, dragged to prison camps, and slaughtered. Instead of clinging to a measure of naïvety about the evil happening, they risked their lives to aid over eight hundred Jewish men, women, and children.1

Of course, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom are a uniquely powerful example. And the whole point is for ordinary people to see how God has equipped them for mercy. So moving on from these historical heroes, let me tell you about some people I know. I think of all the foster parents in my church who willingly enter into heartache and court dates and unknowns and trauma so that they can provide loving care to hurting children. I think of my husband, who has navigated language barriers to build a friendship with a man who fled Syria after being kidnapped and tortured.

I think of my friend Brenda, who has committed to love women trapped in addiction, even when that includes the agony of watching relapse after relapse.

People like Brenda aren’t effective because they insulate themselves from harrowing realities, but, rather, in devotion to a faithful and sustaining God, they confront them and move toward heart-wrenching needs.

It’s painful to acknowledge the troubles faced by many around the world: people on the brink of starvation, parents unable to provide medical intervention for their children, women abused by theirs husbands and oppressed by their governments, girls raped and sold as slaves, families left destitute in war-torn places, unborn babies torn apart in the womb meant to protect them, children abandoned or neglected by their parents, Christians persecuted for their faith. It’s heartbreaking to dwell on any of these things, yet they can’t be ignored.

Whenever one of us says, “I just can’t handle thinking about it,” compassion compels us to consider, They can’t handle living like that. God, how can I alleviate their burden?

The church must be dedicated to hearing and attending to the cry of the afflicted.

The church must be dedicated to hearing and attending to the cry of the afflicted. May all Christians, particularly those living in relative comfort (like me and probably you), resist the temptation to burrow our heads in the sand because we dread emotional upheaval.

Proverbs 21:13 soberly warns, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” God takes our concern for the poor—or lack of it—very seriously. He is not apathetic to our apathy. Rather than closing our ears, hiding our eyes, and resting in ignorance, we are called to regularly and intentionally consider those who suffer so that we can regularly and intentionally respond to their cry.

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor!” To consider implies thoughtful effort. Apart from careful consideration, we won’t engage the dynamics of poverty and oppression in a meaningful way. We might even make problems worse; many a well-meaning person has. But if we diligently learn about the causes of and solutions to needs around us—and humbly seek biblical wisdom for how to engage them—the ignorance and false assumptions that prevent us from responding will begin to break down. Over time, the Lord will inevitably place burdens for specific needs, places, and people on our hearts. As he does this, our mercy will be most effective if we take the time to consider the multifaceted aspects of need, relevant background history, and approaches that have proven fruitful or vain. This helps us discern how to pray, what types of organizations to support, and how to practically serve.


  1. “The History of the Museum,” Corrie ten Boom House, accessed January 9, 2023,

This article is adapted from Go and Do Likewise: A Call to Follow Jesus in a Life of Mercy and Mission by Amy DiMarcangelo.

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