As summer turns toward fall, Labor Day means that communities around the country are preparing for 9/11 observances. After the picnics, we are forced to consider what we Christians call the problem of human sinfulness and how we
live with sin's terrible consequences. The Bible addresses this issue in almost
every chapter from Genesis to Revelation.
The prophet Ezekiel spoke God's word to the exiled Jews in Babylon over a
thirty year period starting in 593 B.C. He dealt with deep questions: God's will
for justice, the pervasive reality of evil, how "the wicked shall die in their iniquity," how we ourselves must respond to wickedness in the world (Ezekiel 33:7-9). But for Ezekiel (as for Jesus) the line between "good guys" and "bad guys" is not as clear as we would like. We are all enmeshed in sin and if we pretend otherwise
we are fooling ourselves.
Ezekiel wrote: "As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of
the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live. Turn back, turn
back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11). Uh-oh . . . Ezekiel speaks God's judgment not to the Babylonians who had
pillaged Jerusalem and defiled the Temple, but to "the house of Israel" itself!
What does this mean for us? Here is a disturbingly Christian witness: This must
be God's call to examine ourselves, our society, our values, our behaviors, both personally and nationally. Consider the fact that almost every American initiative
in the endless "war on terror" since 9/11/01 has only made things worse. "Turn back!" God commands. Step one, from the Christian (and truly patriotic) perspective, is humility, confessing that we too are implicated in the sin of the world. God in your mercy . . .