I will never forget the spring day of my second grade when my life could so easily have ended. I had not taken the bus home that day because I had joined my friend, Ruth, when she and her parents went to an event that afternoon at her church across the street from my school. I have no memory of what the event was, but I knew there would be great food served with it so I had accepted the invitation. It was a church known for how well the women baked pies, cakes, and any creation a six-year-old could imagine.
After the event I jumped in the backseat of the car with Ruth for her dad to drive me home. As my house came into view, he stopped on the road to let me out and continued on rather than driving in the driveway. His choice meant I needed to cross the both traffic lanes, but I was confident that I could easily manage that. I looked both ways and then I saw my mom waiting on the front porch and quickly started across the road. What I didn’t see was a truck that was barreling down the road and about to come over a small hill straight toward me.
What I heard was the sound of my mother’s voice screaming for me to stop and it was then that I noticed the truck. I scampered as fast as I could across the road and jumped across the ditch as my mom came running toward me. I am not sure if my mother was more grateful I was safe or angrier at my lack of awareness I was in danger. As I recall it now all these years later, I am pretty sure the anger came first before her hugs of relief.
Yes, I knew how I was supposed to cross the street, but I was not paying close enough attention and didn’t have the maturity to realize what I didn’t know or how much harm I could face. How grateful I am that my mom was watching!
This week as I was listening to a podcast about the role of a watchman, this personal story came to mind vividly. The speaker was not only telling about the places in scripture where the word is used, but also exhorting anyone listening that each of us as believers are called to be a watchman. He was also using the context of the “signs of the times” and the importance of the admonition “watch and pray”.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines watchman as a “Military or civil security person who had the responsibility to protect ancient towns or military installations from surprise attack or civil disasters. Watchmen also had the responsibility of announcing of a new day.” Clearly, my mother protected me that day and on many other occasions as well. But in the book of Ezekiel the prophet reported the watchman also had the responsibility to warn of impending danger and my mother had done that also.
The role of watchman was a significant responsibility. A sentry in the military served and still does serve a similar duty and must be alert at all times in the discharge of his or her duties to assure no harm comes within the area to be guarded.
In the days of Ezekiel, failure to warn of impending danger would result in being charged as guilty for the blood of the people whom he failed to warn.
If the podcast was right and each of us as believers are called to be a watchman, whom are we called to protect or warn? Initially it seems clear that it would be to protect or warn those close to us of impending danger, but does it not also include our brothers and sisters who are not close to us? If so, what are we to protect them from?
Paul speaks to that clearly in Galatians 6:1:
“Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also.” Amplified Bible, Classic Edition
To fulfill what Paul is admonishing the church at Galatia, it seems he describes the role of a watchman to protect and warn within the body of Christ. Perhaps it also extends to evangelism when we might ask someone if they were to die tonight where would they go.
Unless someone warns us we will never know what we don’t know and if you, anyone, or I don’t warn someone, they won’t either. Warning is a part of loving.
Are you a watchman?