7 “As for you, human being, I have made you a watchman for Israel. If you hear a message from me, you must warn them for me. 8 I might say to the wicked person: ‘Wicked man, you will surely die.’ But you might not speak to warn the evil person to stop doing evil. Then he will die while still a sinner. But I will punish you for his death. 9 But you might warn a wicked person to stop doing evil. If he does not stop, he will die while still a sinner. But you have saved your life.
10 “So you, human being, say to Israel: ‘You have said: Surely our law-breaking and sins are hurting us. They will kill us. What can we do so we will live?’ 11 Say to them: ‘The Lord God says: As surely as I live, this is true. I do not want a wicked person to die. I want him to stop doing evil and live. Turn back! Turn back from your wicked ways! You don’t want to die, people of Israel.’
Loving Others8 Do not owe people anything. But you will always owe love to each other. The person who loves others has obeyed all the law. 9 The law says, “You must not be guilty of adultery. You must not murder anyone. You must not steal. You must not want to take your neighbor’s things.”[a] All these commands and all others are really only one rule: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”[b] 10 Love never hurts a neighbor. So loving is obeying all the law.
11 I say this because we live in an important time. Yes, it is now time for you to wake up from your sleep. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The “night”[c] is almost finished. The “day”[d] is almost here. So we should stop doing things that belong to darkness and take up the weapons used for fighting in the light. 13 Let us live in a right way, as in the daytime. We should not have wild parties or get drunk. There should be no sexual immorality or evil conduct, no fighting or jealousy. 14 But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. Forget about satisfying your sinful self.
When a Person Sins Against You15 “If your brother sins against you,[a] go and tell him what he did wrong. Do this in private. If he listens to you, then you have helped him to be your brother again. 16 But if he refuses to listen, then go to him again and take one or two other people with you. ‘Every case may be proved by two or three witnesses.’[b] 17 If he refuses to listen to them, then tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, then treat him as you would one who does not believe in God. Treat him as if he were a tax collector.
18 “I tell you the truth. The things you don’t allow on earth will be the things God does not allow. The things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.
19 “Also, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about something, then you can pray for it. And the thing you ask for will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 This is true because if two or three people come together in my name, I am there with them.”
Heavenly Father, guide our thoughts and our words, that we may do what is right in your eyes, and act according to your will alone. Amen
“As for you, human being, I have made you a watchman for Israel.” “Do not owe people anything.” “If your brother sins against you] go and tell him what he did wrong.” It sounds like today’s readings are really focused on what we can and should do towards other people. On the face of things that is true, we are being told how to act in relation to others, but it is about how we each act ourselves that is the important part.
“The first commandment is this: The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” These are the first two commandments that God gave to Moses, the first two of the “Ten Best Ways” that we talk about in Godly Play. These are the most important ones, and all the others come from these. If we love our neighbor, we will not want what they have, we will not steal from them, we will not kill them. This is the love that Paul is talking about in his letter to the Romans. “The person who loves others has obeyed all the law.” It can really be that simple. Our duty to each other, no our duty to God, is to love one another. How we show that love is spelled out for us in the Ten Commandments, but it is not just a matter of things we are to not do. Love means that there are things we need to do. Jesus lays this out in detail when he tells us how to address a sin by our brother. The first step is to tell him what he did wrong and do so in private. We don’t need to embarrass him, but we need to let him know about the error. In the best case, he will listen and we will have helped him. If he refuses to listen, then we need to bring it up with a few close friends, so that it is not just one person telling another that they are wrong, but several people, speaking out of love, and trying to help correct and error in behavior. This is also very useful because it could be that our brother did no wrong, and it is we ourselves who need to be corrected. If our brother still refuses to listen, then we need to bring the issue before the whole church. If he will not listen to the whole community, then we are to “treat him as you would one who does not believe in God. Treat him as if he were a tax collector.” So what does that mean? How are we supposed to treat someone who does not believe in God, how do we treat a tax collector? This is not a trick question. We treat them with love! When we are dealing with our brother, Jesus means our brother in God, in faith, not an actual brother. Because of this, we know that they know the rules, they know the laws, and they are bound to treat their neighbors with love, just as we are. What we can expect from them is a bit more than what we expect from the one who does not believe in God.
“I might say to the wicked person: ‘Wicked man, you will surely die.’ But you might not speak to warn the evil person to stop doing evil. Then he will die while still a sinner. But I will punish you for his death. 9 But you might warn a wicked person to stop doing evil. If he does not stop, he will die while still a sinner. But you have saved your life.” We cannot make someone else believe in God, we cannot make someone who believes in God follow the law, we cannot make others act in love toward their neighbors. It is hard enough for us to make our own selves act in these ways. However, we must try, we must warn them, we must love them enough to say “stop doing evil and live. Turn back! Turn back from your wicked ways!”