Summary: A Sermon about human accountability before God
During our mission work in Germany, my family were making a visit to a family in the city. It was a snowy day. But since it snows a lot in eastern Germany, you go on about your business no matter the weather.
On this day, the snow had already accumulated on the car, and I reached to scoop a big handful to throw a snowball at my 5 year old daughter. Just as I released my load, I heard a voice from above saying to me in German: “Machen Sie Dass Nicht!” “Don’t do that!” I turned to look up and a woman was leaning out of an apartment window about 4 stories up. She saw me scoop up the snow the car. As I realized what was happening, I answered back to her in German,
“It’s O.K. ma’am. It’s my car.” Hearing my answer, she closed the window and I proceeded to make my visit.
What business did that lady have policing the city streets telling me what I could or couldn’t do? I couldn’t imagine something like this happening in America. This lady really felt it was her social responsibility to protect everyone’s car down on the street. Wouldn’t we frown upon anyone sticking their nose in our business?
This brings us to today’s message: Is it my business as a preacher or as your pastor to tell you when I see you commit a sin? The shoe fits the other way too, doesn’t it? Is it your business to tell me if you see me in a sin? Is your sin my business? Is my sin your business?
WHOSE BUSINESS IS IT?
The most automatic response would be: “Mind your own business, preacher!” But before we all get “huffy” about it, let’s consider what God is telling the prophet in today’s Bible lesson.
“The word of the Lord” has come to the prophet Ezekiel in a very peculiar way. God begins this conversation with a story. He wants the prophet to imagine what it would be like if a sentinel, a look out, were standing on the city wall and sees the enemy coming. Most of the people in ancient world lived outside city walls and would enter when danger came. What should that sentinel do if he sees danger coming? Should he go about minding his business or should he sound the alarm? The answer is obvious. If the sentinel does his job it is his business to give the warning. Should the people not heed the warning and get slaughtered, it’s not his fault. The guilt for their blood will be on their own heads because they choose not to take the warning seriously. If, however, this sentinel does not do his job, when the enemy comes to kill them and they have not been rightly warned, God says, “I will require their blood, their innocent death to be upon the sentinel’s hands.”
Ezekiel may have been thinking: Who is this Sentinel who is supposed to warn the people about their greatest enemy---not an enemy out there, but their own sin that is “lurking at the door”? God answers: “So you, O mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel” (vs. 7). God has made telling Israel about their “sin” the prophet’s business. We might imagine Ezekiels’ reaction: “But…Lord, I know I should warn these people about their sins, but couldn’t this get dangerous? It’s not only the enemy who has swords. Besides, who am I to define some of them as the “wicked ones’ ( 33.8) as opposed to others as the “righteous ones” (33.12). Can I or anybody, but you really get this nail this down? I know that their sin will hurt them, but their sin can also hurt me. Are you sure this is my business, Lord? This whole “sentinel” business can be more than just a little bit tricky! “
A couple of years ago, it was around November, the weather was getting cooler. Teresa and I were headed out the back door after the final worship service at Flat Rock on that bright, crisp day. As she opened the door to walk through doorway, I looked down and a small brown and black looking snake was lying right on the threshold where the sanctuary and hallway meet. I hesitated about whether or not to warn her. I knew that if I warned her, she might overreact and accidently step on the snake. If I didn’t warn her, she might step on the snake anyway, and I would feel bad because I should have told her. What would you do? Do you keep quiet and hope she misses the snake, or do you warn her and hope she will not step on the snake in all the excitement?