Following God is serious business. Today we read about ultimate consequences for those who lead others away from God. Death comes to those who worship other gods, and to those who lead others to join them. Following God is literally a matter of life and death in this passage.
We hear all the time from people that a God of love would never command His people to kill someone just for breaking one of His laws or having a different opinion (usually stated as “thinking for themselves”). Two things about this line of thought. First, it passes judgement on a society not our own, distant from us in both time and space. Things were different back then. And things still are different in the Middle East. We cannot pass judgement on a time and place this far removed from our own. Second, it contains a philosophy that has been killing the church for centuries, namely that following God isn’t that important. It’s not a matter of life and death, but of opinion. We can think differently and it’s ok. God just wants an hour or two of your time each week, a prayer before bed or before meals, and the rest is up to you.
Few in their right minds advocate today for a death penalty for religious tolerance. But taken too far, this belief that God isn’t all that important leads us to sleeping through church, having only a “private faith”, or living out our faith only when we don’t need to be at work, with family, at the game, or in bed napping.
God matters. In fact, God is truly the most important part of our lives, for only through Jesus Christ can we find truth, hope, and eternal purpose in this life and the next. What could possibly be more important than that?