[Originally published in the Monroe News on January 15, 2021]
In July of 2015 my father, my brother and I climbed Capitol Peak in Colorado. It is arguably the most difficult of the high peaks in the state. This mountain is full of loose rock, knife edges, and steep drop-offs that line the route. We spent a great deal of time preparing ourselves for such a climb. We also built up quite a bit of anxiety during the process.
High on the mountain is a particularly dangerous area that has led to several lost lives in recent years. It is an area where climbers frequently get off route and into terrain that cliffs out. Climbers get lost here while looking for an easy shortcut off the mountain. The shortcut they take looks deceptively easy at first, beckoning the unsuspecting climber in, and then quickly turns treacherous and deadly. In mythical terms, one might compare this to the sirens found in Homer’s The Odyssey. We were aware of this danger and had heeded previous warnings in our research to steer clear.
Due to the handful of deaths in recent years in this area there is discussion whether warning signs should be put in this confusing area of the mountain to help people out. Some say this could keep people safe by warning them away. Others say it is an intrusion upon the wilderness of the mountain to add signs. The debate goes on.
I’m very interested in this topic of watchfulness and warnings. It is a debate that we know well in our own lives. How many warnings do we encounter on a regular day? Watch out, the coffee is hot! Drive slowly, construction ahead. Put on your seatbelts! Make sure not to drink that antifreeze, it could kill you. Ok, some warnings seem a bit unnecessary or over the top, others incredibly helpful. To what extent is it incumbent upon us to be mindful of our neighbors and warn them and watch over their safety? Where should common sense be expected to prevail?
As a Christian I have a calling given in God’s own Word to be a watchman. It is something God does for us and then hands down to us to do for one another. You can see an example of this calling with the prophet Ezekiel whom God called to give warning to His people of the doom their wickedness would bring (see Ezekiel 33). Noah is another historic example in the days before the global flood. He and his family knew the Lord God had promised to flood the earth and destroy all life. Someone had to give warning to the peoples of this world that they too might have an opportunity to join Noah on the ark. Sadly, only Noah and his family listened.
We have an opportunity in today’s world to be watchmen for one another. We can do this in a simple way when we look out for each other. When we tend to one another’s needs. When we treat one another with love. If my neighbor is in need, I can help them out of the abundance of my own surplus. If my neighbor is hurting or struggling I can be a presence of comfort and peace for them. It is an act of love for me to warn my neighbor of impending danger and pitfalls that may lay before them.
So also the opposite is true. If I know a truth that may help rescue my neighbor from certain doom and destruction it is an act of negligence and even hate for me to withhold it. In this we must especially consider the most destructive dooms of sin and death. The Lord God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (see Romans 5:6-11). God sees us in our sins and the certain death that awaits us because of sin, and is a Watchmen for us warning us of this doom, calling us away from it into repentance. We can do this act of love for one another too!
While we cannot see all of the future, the Lord God has told us enough. We have a similar warning before us today that Noah did in the days before the flood. The Lord Jesus returns, and may well return soon, and when He does that will be the last day. Let us be watchmen in this day of waiting, and show great love for all our neighbors by helping them to be ready. Ready in the saving faith in Jesus Christ.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. Contact him at email@example.com