I am going out of my comfort zone today because I have always had a tough time reading the Old Testament prophets. But this passage popped up in my morning prayers this morning and kind of smacked me on the back of the head. It’s something I have always had trouble with.
“After seven days the word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from me, warn them in my Name. If I say to a wicked man, “You are to die,” and you do not warn him; if you do not speak and warn him to renounce his evil ways and so live, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man and he does not renounce his wickedness and his evil ways, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life. When the upright man renounces his integrity to do evil and I set a trap for him, he too shall die; since you failed to warn him, he shall die for his sin and the integrity he practiced will no longer be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you warn the upright man not to sin and he abstains from sinning, he shall live, thanks to your warning, and you too will have saved your life.’”
If most of us were walking down a sidewalk and we saw someone laying on the sidewalk in pain we would stop and inquire if they needed help wouldn’t we? Would that person want us to call someone for them or help them up? How many of you would keep on walking? I doubt many of us would.
If any one of us were walking down a sidewalk and we saw a purse snatcher pull a purse off the shoulder of a woman would you attempt to stop the robbery? Would you attempt to stop the perpetrator? Who would call for help? Who would render aid to the person who was robbed if they were injured? Would you? Why?
Now if you had a close friend or family member having troubles with drugs and/or alcohol would you step in and attempt to intervene? Would you speak to them about how their substance abuse was hurting their body? Hurting those around them? Potentially threatening the lives of others around them? Or would you stay silent and walk away?
In today’s passage Ezekiel tells us that we are responsible for the sins of others if we don’t warn them of their sins. Why would we do that? Why would God want us to warn others of their sins or the sinful life they live? Because the answer is that it’s loving thy neighbor. What is more loving than wanting eternal life for our friends, loved ones, for everyone? Our failure to warn other’s of sin is our silent affirmation of what they are doing is right when it is in fact doing them harm and killing their soul.
We’d help the little old lady from the purse snatcher, and if we caught the purse snatcher would we warn him how his actions could lead to him to hell? If we fail to intervene with a family member who was dealing with substance abuse problems and we don’t take away their keys and they get behind the wheel and kill someone is their not blood on our hands too?
There are people out there who don’t want to be preached to and warned. But we have a moral responsibility to tell someone, and explain to someone how they are going astray. If you can’t then find someone who will with you. (Check out Matthew 18 on this).
As Grandpa always said, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make em drink the water. If we can’t lead a horse to water, we can at least tell them about the water and what happens if they won’t take the right path to the water.
Just one more thing: We will help someone who’s fallen, we will help someone get their purse back, but we won’t help lead someone to Christ by warning them of their sins and their sinful life. Why is that?