Recently I read that the killer of Kitty Genovese died in prison. He was 81 years old. She was 28 years old when he murdered her. Many of us are not old enough to remember the story, but it made national headlines because neighbors who heard her cries didn’t help her.
Kitty was a barmaid who got off late on the night of March 13, 1964. Having parked her car in the usual spot and walking as she had hundreds of times before toward her second story apartment in Queens New York, she didn’t notice her attacker.
The piercing of the knife blade into her shoulder announced his presence. “Oh, my God, he stabbed me,” she screamed. The attacker struck again. “Please, Please, help me!” Kitty cried. A woman named Irene heard her cry and turned on her light. A man named Robert opened his window and hollered, “Let that girl alone.”
The attacker ran off. Irene turned off her light, and Robert shut his window. Kitty lay bleeding in the street. She got up and stumbled to the back of her apartment. Too weak to climb the steps, she lay at the door. Five minutes passed and the attacker returned to finish what he started.
Later, the police caught the attacker and their investigation revealed that 38 witnesses heard Kitty’s cries for help but no one helped her. Psychologists call this the by-stander effect. If more than one person witnesses a crime, you are less likely to receive help than if only one person witnesses the crime. Everyone assumes someone else will do it. But all 38 owed it to Kitty to help her.
Have you ever though that we owe it to those who are perishing to help them by being faithful witnesses of the gospel. Paul did. “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and unwise,” wrote Paul. “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also” (Romans 1:14-16).
We are debtors to the unsaved. Whether it’s the sinner who dies in prison or the victim whose life he cut short, we owe the gospel to them. Simply turning on our light at church or hollering out our windows of worship is not enough. We must come out of our safety zones to help them with the Gospel. We owe it to them.
Michael Peters, Pastor