1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. 5 Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’
7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.
-Ezekiel 33 (NIV)
There are many times throughout life that a decision has to be made. There will be times when you see someone participating in something that you know will harm or hurt them. But what do you do? Do you speak to them about it? Do you assume they see the harm or the danger but are ignoring it? Whether sin or dangerous behavior, is it your responsiblity to tell them?
Nobody likes to hear they are doing something wrong. Especially when they don’t see what’s coming. Perhaps they’re rolling along, enjoying life. Sometimes they’re blinded by love or by hate.
What responsibility do we have to talk to our friends? What about our families? What about people on the street? Should you stop someone riding a bicycle without a helmet and warn them of the danger? What about the co-worker who drinks too much? Or the two pack-a-day smoker? Is there a responsibility or a need to tell someone participating in these behaviors that they can cause problems?
In the last week, I have had two situations where close friends of mine are doing things which they’re going to regret. In both cases, it was dealing with relationships. But what do you say to someone? Do you say something now? Do you wait and become the friend who says after they break up, “I knew she was like that all along”?
I think there is a responsiblity that we have. In the beginning of this post, there is a reading from Ezekiel. It speaks of how the watchman, the man looking for danger, will be held accountable. Will we then be held accountable if we see danger and do not report it?
Unfortunately, this responsiblity as a watchman carries with it dangers and implications. It may mean the end of friendships. It may breed anger. It may cause misunderstanding. However, the book of Proverbs speaks of foolish men not heeding the words of those pointing out dangers.
So often, we stay out of it. We remember the plank in our own eye and don’t want to be reminded of it when we point out the speck in somewhere else.
Perhaps it is time we take responsiblity. We must take responsibility for our own actions. And we must also take responsibility for the actions that we see others taking. If we see them, it is our duty. We are told that everyone we meet is our neighbor. You would call out if your neighbor’s house was on fire. But would you call out if you saw your neighbor cheating on his wife?
Let there be caution though that you do not cause unneeded strife in your warnings. Obviously, the warning by itself will be cause for discomfort alone. Be understanding. But do not be apologetic. Be sympathetic. But do not be remorseful.
After the warning, there is no need to continue to ride someone on an issue. You have called out the danger, but you cannot force someone to heed your advice. Perhaps you are even misguided in your views. But even if you are not, your responsiblity as a watchman is to call out and to warn.
Begin to take responsibility. Begin to take the keys away. Begin to teach others from your own mistakes. Be willing to tackle the issues. Don’t be afraid. It’s better to deal with a day’s worth of anger than pregnancies, broken hearts, and death.
Although the wicked man will continue to die for his sins, the righteous man must continue to point to the narrow way. If he does not, he is accountable for the death of the wicked man.