“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:17-19).
How many of us would stand idly by while we saw someone robbing our neighbor’s house or trying to lure their young child into a car? Our choosing to do nothing in such situations certainly would not be carrying out the 2nd great commandment, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matthew 22:37-40). We all agree we should watch out for our neighbors and their children in such situations.
Spiritually, how many of us believe we need to watch out for our neighbors? It appears the majority in our society believe religion is something we should keep to ourselves. Pressure is placed upon us not to tell others of the consequences of not obeying God and seeking a relationship with us. We are frowned upon as being “Jesus freaks” if we talk to others about Him. What does God say about this?
In considering God’s message to the prophet Ezekiel, we certainly learn what God wants us to do when it comes to watching out for our neighbor’s spiritual welfare. Ezekiel the priest is called by God to prophesy to God’s people who have already been carried away to Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1-3). God tells Ezekiel that the people he is going to preach to are not going to listen because they are a rebellious house (Ezekiel 2:3-5; 3:7). However, since Ezekiel knew up front that these people would not listen to God’s message did this relieve him of his duty to speak God’s warnings to them?
As the opening verses describe, God still expected Ezekiel to preach God’s message to them. If Ezekiel warned them and they did not obey, they would die in their sins, but Ezekiel would have delivered his soul. On the other hand, if Ezekiel failed to speak God’s Word of warning to them, they would still die in their sins, but God would require their blood at Ezekiel’s hand (Ezekiel 3:17-19).
Does this mean we should stand on the street corner and yell at people warning them of God’s impending judgment? That is certainly one method, but it is probably not a very effective method. Looking at how Ezekiel began his ministry to these captives, we see he goes and simply sits among them for 7 days (Ezekiel 3:15). The text says he was “astonished” among them. He “sat where they sat”. Ezekiel empathized with the plight of his people. Although God had told Ezekiel these people were a “rebellious house”, Ezekiel tried to understand them and the heartache they faced.
Knowing God’s Word brings an obligation upon us to warn others around us of the consequences of sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23). However, it also gives us an opportunity to share with them the Good News of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. Learning from Ezekiel, we see the importance of not just criticizing our fellow man for their sinful behavior, but also of trying to empathize with our fellow man and the heartache they face because of their sins. Sharing the gospel with them gives us the opportunity to point them to a better life on this earth and eternal life in the future through Jesus Christ. Today, I acknowledge I need to be a good neighbor and warn those around me of the consequences of sin and I will look for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with others!
“…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15-16).