By David Faust
When we were boys, my brother John and I often played ball in the front yard of our house. It’s still a mystery why a softball crashed through the dining room window one day. Confronted by our unhappy dad, John and I blamed each other. “He threw it too high,” I insisted. John was equally insistent. “He should have caught it.” To this day, I say the broken window was my brother’s fault and he blames me.
Humanity has played the blame game ever since Adam pointed his finger at Eve and she claimed “the devil made me do it.” Politicians try to pin the nation’s problems on the other political party. In unhappy marriages each spouse faults the other.
The guilty always want to avoid moral responsibility, but should robbers blame the bank for having money? Should gossips blame their chatty friends, cheaters fault the rule-makers, and gluttons blame the cooks?
Responsible to Decide
In Ezekiel’s day people tried to avoid personal responsibility for their sins by quoting this proverb: “The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2). In other words, “My mistakes are Mom and Dad’s fault.”
No one denies the impact of parental and environmental influences on children, for good or for bad. But when children grow up, they must choose the path they walk. Mature adults stop blaming others and accept responsibility for their actions.
God doesn’t condemn anyone because of someone else’s sins. He deals justly with each individual. “The one who sins is the one who will die. . . . He will not die for his father’s sin” (vv. 4, 17). The good news? When we accept responsibility for our wrongdoing and quit blaming others, we’re ready to discover the extraordinary graciousness of God. “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed . . . that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them” (vv. 21, 22). Mercifully the Lord asks, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? . . . Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (v. 23).
According to the New Testament, God does for us what we could never do for ourselves, but we are individually responsible for the way we respond to his grace. Believe in Christ. Repent of your own sin. Be baptized “every one of you” (Acts 2:38). Remain faithful until death. Others can’t take these steps for you.
Responsible to Inform
The Lord compared Ezekiel to a watchman who stood guard on a city wall (3:16-21). The watchman had to be alert and watchful at all times. It was his solemn responsibility to warn the city’s residents about approaching enemies. If people ignored the warning, it was their own fault; but if a negligent watchman saw danger approaching and failed to sound the alarm, he was accountable for their blood (33:1-9).
We aren’t the final judge of someone else’s soul, nor can we guarantee how anyone will react to God’s warnings and blessings; but like Ezekiel, we have a sacred responsibility to share the message entrusted to us. Compelled by love and propelled by the Spirit, we must communicate the good news of Christ with sincerity and urgency. How others respond to God—that’s their responsibility.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for November 8, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Peter 2:17-22
2 Peter 3:1-9
2 Peter 3:10-18
Ezekiel 20, 21
1 John 1:1-4
Ezekiel 22, 23
1 John 1:5-10
1 John 2:1-11
Ezekiel 27, 28