By Grace Li

“Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil,” so stated Elie Wiesel, reflecting how apathy arouses abhorrence. One of Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous horror tales, “The Masque of the Red Death,” also exposes human tendency to feel indifferent to suffering people. In the story, a masked guest–the horrible red death plague–kills the main character Prospero and all his couriers in a masquerade, even when they shut themselves away in a secluded abbey. In real life, some people also tend to withdraw from society. In olden times, hermits, monks and nuns all established sanctuary from the world. Even today, the same things happen. A number of Christians, although not completely separated from the general public, form unbreakable “glass abbeys.” They put a chasm between themselves and the world for various reasons. Altogether, some Christians cloister themselves because of their selfishness, weakness, and fear of being corrupted by the world.

To begin, Christians stay away from people in need because of their own selfishness. They occasionally succumb to self-indulgence when encountering a choice between an enjoyable setting among believers and a sinful community; in the end, they either shut themselves up or look away from the hopeless people. In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Prince Prospero and his courtiers retire into a secluded abbey and have grand, gay parties and balls; the story describes the magnificent masquerade where the masked guest arrives as “a voluptuous scene. Although typical church-related events do not count as “voluptuous,” they certainly can push evangelical activities out of some believers’ lives.  Living in a sheltered area where everybody does nothing but enjoy themselves is such a tempting choice compared to standing in the street and telling strangers about the Good News. A quote from the story reflects how human hearts can harden against others, “The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think.” Unfortunately, many followers of Jesus also unwittingly adopt such ideas. Because many believers selfishly think like this, they tend to shut themselves into a Christian community and do not extend helping hands to the distressed. Overall, a number of Christians do not lift sinners from their pit of despair because of their own self-centeredness; they like their comfortable surroundings and harden their hearts toward others.

Also, their weaknesses at times hinder Christians from helping people. Believers, when not leaning upon God for strength, feel timid or even hesitant to tell people of Jesus and their faith. For instance, at the time of Nero, many believers when into hiding because of the ruthless persecution; most did not proclaim the good news of His salvation. Sometimes telling people about Jesus will, in some ways, harm Christians, which causes them to silently move away. For example, when I want to preach the Gospel to my friends, I often become hesitant, and doubt frequently overcomes my desire to do God’s work. Christians feel reluctant to tell people of God because they think their audience may not like or respect them anymore; every now and then, they care more about people’s opinions than God’s. To sum up, just like Prince Prospero and his couriers abandon the people outside their abbey, Christians often do not rescue sinners from their road to destruction because either fear of persecution or derision of people prevents them.

Lastly, Christians cloister themselves to avoid being corrupted by the world.  Many of them fear that the world will corrupt them if they associate with people of the world. For example, Prince Prospero and his followers go as far as possible from the people suffering from the Red Death, because they fear the contagion. Christians, too, fear that immoral people might infect them if they go near them. Moreover, most Christians do not like to go to places like prisons, homes for the homeless, and shelters for former prostitutes, where sinners need the message of salvation. Looking at unsaved people wallowing in their sinful deeds makes Christians feel uncomfortable, and consequently they back away into the protected company of fellow believers. In conclusion, many children of God shut themselves in order to stay pure from the pollution of general society.

Because of their own selfishness, shortcomings, and their wish to avoid the world’s defilement, Christians retreat into safe areas. Instead of withdrawing into invisible yet sealed ‘abbeys,’ like the prince and his followers in the story, God’s children are told to live as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. “Living in a glass abbey” means the person cares more about himself instead of others, which obviously is not what God wants his children to do. This happens only when they bear their crosses daily. For apart from Him, Christian can do nothing. Poe’s story also reflects a major sinful human nature, selfishness, that also exists in Christians if they do not abide in Jesus Christ and lean on Him for strength.

Of course, Christians associating with people of the world run the risk of unwittingly conforming to their ways. They may easily cross the line if they don’t pray for strength and wisdom. Christians should not make friends with unbelievers without His help. Besides, if God is helping us, we would know what to do to avoid becoming conformed. When an unbeliever, instead of listening, tries to persuade a Christian to join him in sinning, the Christian should run, like Joseph before Potiphar’s wife. Overall, as Christians, we should make serving God our sole mission on earth, and let there be no glass abbeys that hinders us from pleasing Him. If God is calling you to reach out to your unbelieving friends, neighbors, or someone, then He will lead you to victory.