“Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me. If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.” (Ezekiel 3:17-21)
Relate: One of the oldest stories in the history of humanity involves two brothers. The older of these two was a farmer. Where he tended plants, his younger brother tended to animals. The story we have does not tell much more background about these two boys but we can grasp from the context that they were not best of friends and that there was almost certainly quite a bit of rivalry between the two.
One day each of these two boys came to make their offerings to God. The older brought his best fruits and veggies. He picked the biggest and ripest fruit he could find from all that he had labored so hard to grow, placed it in a basket and brought it to God. The younger brother went out to his animals and chose a young lamb that had not injuries or physical defects. We understand the reasoning now, but there is nothing in the story (in which I am allowing myself the slightest of poetic licenses) that says either brother was given an explanation. All they knew was that God was not a vegetarian because he accepted the younger brother’s gift while rejecting the veggies.
Of course jealousy and rivalry was kicked into overdrive. The older brother stewed on this rejection until he was ready to boil over. God knew the bitterness growing in his heart and warned the older brother that it was going to destroy his life if he didn’t deal with it. Well, just as God rejected his offering, this brother rejected God’s advice. The next chance he got he went for a walk in the woods with little bro. As soon as Able wasn’t looking, Cain, the older brother, bashed his head in till the brains splattered out.
Not long after this God asks Cain, “Where’s your brother?” Cain tries to evade the question with one of his own. He utters that most famous of quotes: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
React: The correct answer to that question is yes. What God told Ezekiel in today’s scripture rings just as true for each and every follower of Christ today. He has appointed us to be watchmen. We have a responsibility to speak. If we warn a sinner he is on the wrong path and he does not turn from it, we have done our duty but he will still be lost. If we do not warn him he will pay for his sins, but his blood will be on our hands. Who is it we are responsible for? Everyone we have the potential to reach. How many teachers and students do I work with? They are my responsibility. How many people live on my block? In my town? They are my responsibility. How many people might read what I write? They are my responsibility. Anyone with whom I have a conversation, or could have a conversation with if I were living more intentionally is my responsibility to warn. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I most definitely am… and so are you.
Help me to live intentionally. Help me to be aware in every conversation that I have, and that I could have had, that I am your watchman. You have given me a message. Help me to run with it. Do not let me be silent. The time is too short and this world is too desperate for me to live an apathetic life.