If I pronounce a death sentence on wicked people, and you don’t warn them to turn from their way, they will die in their guilt, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (Ezekiel 33:8, CEB)
John Wesley alluded to this verse often. He felt the words were true and they were directed not just at Ezekiel, but at him. If he did not warn and rebuke those who were violating the law of God, John Wesley believed he would be held liable in the great judgement for the blood of those who went to eternity without his word in their ears.
Of all the ways we United Methodists in 2012 are different from Mr. Wesley, this strikes me as one of the greatest. As a church we simply do not share the beliefs that give this verse its bite. Many of us find the very notion of God’s eternal judgement old fashioned, rooted in a primitive worldview that is no longer persuasive in the 21st century. Even more spend as much time and energy as we can convincing non-Christians that we are not like “those” Christians who tell them God does not approve of hedonism.
But how is such a view safe, let alone scriptural?
In the old Methodist movement, John Wesley used to defend the work of Methodism by pointing to all the sinners who had been reformed. He took great pride, it seems to me when I read his journals, in taking note of village and towns where all manner of sin was embraced openly before the Methodists started preaching there. He always notes the change — and sometimes laments the failures — when Methodism took hold in such a place.
What do we point to in the UMC? Are there places where our presence rolls back evil? Does our witness anywhere warn the wicked, or is the blood of millions on our hands still?