The Crime of Doing Nothing
If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Ezekiel 3:18
What is my responsibility in my brother’s destructive behavior? I’ve been wrestling with this question lately and I must confess, I don’t have all the answers.
I often say that at some point, the seeker has to do some seeking and I know that I cannot recovery for anyone else. I can’t force another into sobriety (or faith), so often, I’ll just sit back and watch as the addict paints himself into a corner and then, when consequences rain down, I plan to be there to help.
Today’s passage though, insists that there is an apathy or passiveness that is sinful in itself. As a bystander, I become complicit in the self-destructive behavior of others by doing – or saying – nothing. God told Ezekiel that he was not responsible for the disastrous choices of those around him, rather, his innocence or guilt depended on whether he tried to warn them or not. If they died from their toxic choices, Ezekiel was guilty if he did nothing to stop it, but if he attempted to intervein, then he was innocent.
So, what do I do when I see those around me headed down a path of destruction? What is my responsibility to the one who does not know God? Today’s passage insists that I am not responsible for the outcome, but I am responsible to point the way to life.
Frankly, it’s messy and uncomfortable to insert myself into other’s lives. It’s easier to just pray for them. As I said, I’ve not got this one all figured out, but I’m finding that if I let a fellow struggler know that I love him, if I let him know what I believe in, and if I make it clear that I’ll be there when he needs help, then I’ve done what I can. I can’t recover for someone else, but I can do what’s right, which makes all the difference to me . . . and it may save my brother’s life.