If you have children, you’ve probably experienced a scenario like the following: In the next room, there’s a crash, or crying, or some other craziness. So, you get up from what you are doing, walk over, and the first thing that the child says as you behold the wreckage is, “It’s not my fault!”. Has that happened to you? (Hmmm…I wonder if my parents are reading this?)
Denying culpability is as old as humanity. Adam blamed God for giving him Eve, after Adam disobeyed God (Genesis 3:11-12). Cain played dumb – to God, no less – when asked about Abel (Genesis 4:9). And, the precedent continues to this day, whether in sports, politics, employment, or traffic accidents.
In the Bible, God offers a different viewpoint on personal responsibility:
When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.
Ezekiel 3:18 NIV
Did you see that? While individuals each make personal decisions whether or not to do the right thing, when a follower of God is told to warn them and chooses not to, both share responsible for the failure.
Note that waiving our responsibility (to warn others of the looming consequences of their actions) does not necessarily free others from experiencing those consequences. That is, we can’t somehow save people by never telling them about right and wrong, or by hiding God’s plan for rescuing them. Their remaining in ignorance is not a means to escaping consequences, since basic principles of right and wrong are given to each person (see Romans 2:1-16, for instance).
Speaking the truth in love is a fine balance, to be sure. Sharing the message of sin’s penalty is incomplete, if it is not accompanied by the message of God’s redemption offered through Jesus. However, it’s just mean to tell someone that everything is ok, when you know that it’s not, and that they can make a choice that will change things for the better. Without the restoration brought about by following Jesus, our fellow human beings are not only separated from an eternal life with a loving God who cares for us, but they also continue to miss out on the joys of everyday life that are brought about by living as were were designed.
So, if you have friends or family that don’t know about the destructive path that they are on, be a lookout for them. At least tell them of the consequences that are coming their way, and show them God’s plan for them to remain victorious against the forces that seek to destroy us all. It is regrettable that not all will heed these warnings, but not as regrettable as if they were not given the chance to be saved.
We are our brother’s keepers. We are the watchmen. We are the messengers. May we not withhold the cure from those who can yet be rescued.