We’re treading on ice with today’s scripture readings. God tells Ezekiel that has appointing him as sentry to Israel. Ezekiel’s job is to warn people when he sees that they are behaving badly. And Jesus hands on that task to us. ‘If your brother does something wrong then go and have it out with him’, he says.

For many of us this goes against the grain. We’ve been brought up to mind our own business, to leave others to get in and out of their own mess and to keep our noses out. One of the refrains in our modern society is ‘live and let live’, and this seems at odds with what the bible asks us to do.

Of course, it all depends on our motives. When we see something that is clearly wrong we can get on our high horse, as if we are perfect, and we can enjoy launching into the person who is responsible for it. Usually we get a good deal of pleasure out of this, partly because we see something of ourselves in the person we are condemning, and having a go at them is a way of exorcising the ghost from our own hearts.

On the other hand, condoning wrongful behaviour, from wherever it comes, is not an option. We have to be sensitive to the person involved; we have to understand the circumstances they find themselves in and seek for the reasons behind their actions. But we cannot remain silent and pretend what they are doing is right.

The gospel values which we hold are public and communal, and we have to ensure that we never cease to find fresh ways of letting the world know what they are and why they are important to us. If we were on the verge of destroying ourselves by some unhelpful course of action, then we would probably be grateful in the long term for someone who didn’t just go along with what we were doing but pointed out the dangers to us. In the same way we owe it to others to warn them when we can see they are harming themselves.

The problem with live and let live is that is usually ends up as live and let die.


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