One of the earliest pieces of advice given to me when learning to drive has stuck with me through the years: “When you sit behind the wheel of a car, you hold a lethal weapon in your hands.” That lesson was sheeted home powerfully to me when a car accident involving students in my final year at school took one within an inch of his life, and set his study and graduation plans back, not to mention destroying a sporting career. These powerful words of warning come back to me from time to time when I see another vehicle accident.
The prophet Ezekiel was in receipt of a sobering warning from God, a piece of advice we all do well to take notice of: "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth, and give them warning from Me. "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. "But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) The responsibility upon the messenger of God was a solemn one: should he fail to speak what God wanted him to speak, then he would have responsibility for the people.
Called as the people of God, we are charged with a message of love and grace, a message which can be conveyed in many and varied ways. We can show hospitality to neighbours, generosity to those in need, compassion to those who are downcast. This is the charge given to us by Jesus. It is more than a simple call to proclaim in words: it is a lifestyle to be lived and shared in ways which have an impact on those around us. Truly there are some of us entrusted with the ability to speak this love and grace, but that does not absolve others from the responsibility to live it. As much as we fail to live it, we bear some measure of responsibility for the response of those around us.
In this day and age with its focus on individual rights, this message strikes a discordant note. In many ways our reluctance to accept this challenge is an echo of Cain’s response to God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Clearly, God’s answer continues to be a resounding “Yes!”
November 11, 2001