SICM, Day 2: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the Watchman
[Editor's Note: This post is part of a series explaining "Security in the Context of Ministry," or SICM. SICM is Concilium's approach to security where the Gospel is our highest value and the protection of God's people on mission is our highest priority. We look forward to interacting with your questions and comments on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/conciliumonline/) as we run this series!]
When it comes to security and Scripture, we do not want to take Scripture out of context and “wrap” a sacred text around a secular security principle. In other words, we don’t want to attempt to justify secular principles with a weak scriptural foundation. On the contrary, there is a place for secular security principles in ministry (Luke 16:9), but that is not the goal with SICM.
More than once we have seen well-meaning Christian security professionals create friction with missionaries as they took Scriptures out of context in an attempt to justify a security method or principle. Sadly, this approach not only damaged their credibility but also undermined their ability to connect their security training with those on the ground doing ministry in tough places. This was because missionaries who knew the Scriptures were questioning the sincerity and integrity of those leading the security training.
With that said, Ezekiel 33:1-6 is a great example of the role of the modern day security professional directly involved in evangelical work. While this passage of Scripture renews Ezekiel’s call and mandate as a prophet of Israel, it is also a very good example of biblical risk management principles and practices in action through SICM.
The passage begins with God saying “When I bring a sword on the land…” This is important as God does not say, “When the evil one comes”, or “when evil overwhelms…”, etc. The fact is, God is sovereign in all things and often God chooses to judge nations and peoples. Moreover, in God’s sovereignty, we know that nothing comes against God’s elect that does not first pass by the throne of God (Psalm 103:19; Job 1:6-12; Luke 22:31; etc.).
It is critical to note that, even in the midst of God’s sovereignty -- and judgment -- He expects His people to appoint a “watchman.” This is a critical point as Christians (and Christian organizations) must be very careful in light of this passage not to blindly rest on what they consider to be “God’s will” and thus take an un-given permission for un-necessary risk-taking in the name of Jesus. The opposite is true. God makes it clear that, in His sovereignty, there is a real and tangible place where personal responsibility comes into play in the midst of His sovereign judgment. These principles apply not only to individual saints, but also corporately for Christian organizations. In the case of Christian organizations, we call this the biblical mandate for “duty of care” (duty of care is a moral and legal obligation held by an organization to provide a standard of reasonable care and protection for their personnel while performing any acts that could foresee-ably harm others, such as missionary work in dangerous places).
Duty of care issues are real (and have been quite costly to organizations that have been sued for negligence), but this training is not about duty of care. This training is about the responsibilities and duties of individual Christians who often serve with Christian NGOs and mission agencies. Bottom line, organizations know there is evil along the road. If God made it a point for Israel to appoint watchmen when "He brings the sword on the land," how much more critical is it for organizations to appoint watchmen when "evil along the road" is the concern? Thus God requires the appointment of watchmen, both in season and out of season, whose job it is to protect their organization and people in all their endeavors.
This passage deals with death. In this case we are talking about the death of God's people. Whenever we speak of the death of God's people, the issue of martyrdom immediately comes to mind.
What is a Christian martyr? What constitutes Christian martyrdom? There is much debate about this and the purpose of this training is not to get bogged down in that argument. But what is clear, according to Ezekiel 33:4-5 is that a believer cannot be a true martyr if their “blood is on their own head.” That is another way of saying their death was in vain. Christian martyrs do not die in vain.
Moreover, in Revelation 6, God makes it clear that martyrs were slain because “the word of God, and because of their testimony which they had maintained.” (Revelation 6:9) God makes it clear throughout His word that Christians are not to seek out death while maintaining their testimony. As believers, we are called to die to ourselves as we daily take up the cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). Never are we called to seek physical death for death’s sake in a vain attempt to glorify God with our actions. The martyrdom described in Revelation 6 can come, however, when one does live out Luke 9:23.
Let’s be clear on what we're attempting to say:
1. In light of this Scripture passage in Ezekiel 33, we are not talking about issues of salvation. We are, however, talking about the issues and concerns of obedience when it comes to security best practices and Gospel advance.
2. In light of this Scripture passage in Ezekiel 33, we are not talking about issues of persecution and martyrdom as characterized in Revelation 6. We are, however, talking about the application of Ezekiel 33 as it pertains to “evil on the road” as Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
According to Ezekiel 33:4, when Christians ignore the call of the watchmen, and do not deliver their lives from a warned danger, their blood is on their own heads. This means the burden of responsibility for personal decision-making falls on the individual -- even if their bad decisions lead to tragedy. Remember, this is not a question of God’s sovereignty; it is a question of personal judgement -- an individual’s poor decisions never catch God off guard.
Thus, a Christian who ignores the call of the watchman may well die in the Lord (for everyone who is saved dies ‘in the Lord’), or even die in service to the Lord. But by ignoring the call of the watchman and being killed for our stuff (economic crime), politics/nationality (ideological crime) or even our color (race crime), the Word is pretty clear this is not martyrdom, according to Revelation 6.
Tomorrow, we will look quickly at Ezekiel 33:6 and the responsibility of the sanctified watchman to diligently perform his duties in modern era of mission sending.