As the oldest in my family, I was held responsible for my younger siblings’ actions. There were times I would be put in charge. There were times I just happened to be with them when they got in trouble or hurt. Suddenly, it was my responsibility. I should have been watching them, I should have warned them, I was the one who should have known better. I should have known not to grab the rope swing and jump off the shed in the back yard. Israel was told to warn, speak out, and to dissuade those who are wicked from their evil ways (Ezekiel 3:18,19; Ezekiel 33:8,9).
God also focuses on the erring righteous. “Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 3:20,21).
The key words are found at the end of verses 19 and 21, “and you will have saved yourself.” Not that we will have helped save the other person. No, the emphasis is placed on the fact that our own soul will now be saved because we at least tried to warn and teach the person the right way. When I was a child, there were times when I would warn my siblings and try to explain the rules, but they chose to ignore me. When it came time for punishments to be handed out my parents took that into account. If I could honestly say I had tried and told them not to do it, but they went ahead and did it anyway, then usually my parents would let me off the hook and focus on the erring sibling. Are we going to be able to say I tried, I really tried, when we stand before God on judgment day?
Brad Tolbert, Monticello church of Christ, Monticello, AR