This might be my first time ever reading the book of Ezekiel, at least that I can remember. Some crazy stuff happens.
Ezekiel received his call to prophecy at age 30, the same year that he expected to be entering into the priesthood. He had a very interesting vision, that parallels John's vision in Revelation in many ways. You can read all this in the first two chapters. In chapter three, God tells Ezekiel to eat a scroll, on which the words he is to deliver to the people are written. After that, he left "in bitterness and in an angry spirit" (Ez. 3:14), and sat stunned for seven days, in what my footnotes suggest was "hardened resistance." (3:27, HCSB footnote p. 1358).
Then, God holds Ezekiel responsible as a watchman for the people of Israel, which we will discuss in greater detail, and then makes it so that Ezekiel is unable to speak for seven years, except to deliver God's message to Israel.
Here is what God says:
Now at the end of seven days the Lord came to me: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman over the house of Israel. When you hear a word from My mouth, give them a warning from Me. If I say to the wicked person, 'You will surely die,' but you do not warn him--you don't speak out to warn him about his wicked way in order to save his life--that wicked person will die for his iniquity. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person and he does not turn from his wickedness or his wicked way, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, and I put a stumbling block in front of him, he will die. If you did not warn him, he will die because of his sin and the righteous acts he did will not be remembered. Yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn the righteous person that he should not sin, and he does not sin, he will indeed live because he listened to your warning, and you will have saved your life."
God also tells Ezekiel not to socialize with the Israelites during this time. So his only task, the only thing he is really able to do, is warn the people not to sin, and if he doesn't do that, they will die, and it will be his fault. Raise your hand if you envy Ezekiel...nobody?
This reminds me of Cain, who, after killing his brother, asked God, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
When I was in grade school, some kids bullied my younger stepbrother on the school bus. I got in trouble at home for not being a good older sister and standing up for him. My excuse was that I didn't even know it was happening--which was true, I was oblivious to it--but even if I had known, would I have done anything? Not because I didn't care, but because I was so shy, I wouldn't have had the courage to stand up to anyone.
A prouder moment (sort of) was a few years later in junior high. Some kids in the back of the class threw several spitballs into the hair of the guy sitting in front of me. I hadn't talked to him much, and I was still very shy, but he was kind of nerdy like me, and I felt like I couldn't just sit there and allow this to continue. After much agonizing, worrying, and deliberation, I very carefully picked all of the spitballs out of his hair--with my pencil. He didn't seem to notice it, or if he did, did not acknowledge it, which I was thankful for.
My husband teaches a class called Race, Gender, and Human Identity. There is an article in the textbook called "Why We Are Responsible for Being Born," which, he explained to me, says that racism is everyone's fault, because we allowed it to happen. We may not have started it, but but we haven't stopped it, and unless we speak out and stand up for equality for everyone, we responsible for it.
I have a hard time with this, because I like to avoid conflict--getting yelled at by someone, or just sternly confronted, is right up there on my list with eating beets and getting in a car wreck. I'd almost prefer bodily harm to verbal infractions.
But sometimes you have to stand up for justice, truth, and love. And even if you aren't comfortable telling people they're doing something wrong, you can at least nudge them gently in the right direction. I'm not a fan of telling people, "You're doing wrong. This is sinful. You're going to hell." Unless it's my husband, in which case, I will tell him..."I don't know if this is the best way to deal with things."
Being a manager at my workplace, I have had to become more assertive, especially when people break the rules or do something that is really not kosher. I can still be caring and nice, but firm.
I don't know that we all have to warn people not to sin--maybe that is some people's job. But we need to hold our fellow believers accountable--to help them on their path, and to help them love others as Jesus commanded us to do.
Who or what do you need to stand up for? How can you stand up for the things that Jesus represents?