The author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to obey their spiritual leaders, because “they watch out for your souls.” In other words, these leaders were looking out for, or keeping an eye on, them. This would include warning them about the dangers of the false teaching they were facing.
A leader has the extra burden of watching out for those whom he leads. This is true in the church. A godly leader will love those under his charge and will look out for spiritual dangers. But to a lesser degree, this is also true for Christians in general. If we love one another, we will keep an eye out for each other.
About 20 years ago I took up swimming as a way to exercise. Nowadays, I swim at a local cultural center where there’s an indoor pool. I try to go when there’s nobody else around so that I don’t have to share a lane with another swimmer. There are teenaged lifeguards who work at the pool. They know me, and over the past two years they’ve spent hours watching me swim back and forth.
You can imagine that it’s a very boring job. Usually, I’m the only person in the pool, and they watch me swim. It is very easy to fall into a rut. These kids have seen me swim literally miles and miles and feel there’s no danger whatsoever that something bad will happen while I’m swimming.
A few days ago, I was swimming and noticed that the 16-year-old lifeguard was sitting in his usual chair, but with one major difference. He was sound asleep. He had leaned his head back against the wall and was oblivious to what I was doing. I’m sure he thought he was wasting his time watching me and that his time was better spent taking a nap.
I must admit that his actions didn’t bother me one bit. Through the years, I’ve swum in many places that didn’t have lifeguards. I’ve swum in lakes all by myself. I was glad the young man could catch some winks. He didn’t need to watch me.
I know, however, that safety-conscious folks would be appalled by his actions. I might have had a heart attack. I might have hit my head on the side of the pool and been knocked out. I might have passed out from dehydration. Somebody else, perhaps a child, could have gotten into the pool and found themselves in trouble. A number of things could have happened, and it was his responsibility to watch over me and anybody else who came into the pool. Even though I was not bothered by that teenager doing what he did, all of these are valid concerns.
He should have been watching the swimmers in that pool. That is what his boss expected him to do. It wouldn’t have mattered to the boss if the young man had said there was no reason to stay awake and argued that there was no possible danger to look out for and that he knew I was OK.
The same is true in the spiritual realm. As we live our lives as believers, things can appear to be monotonous. It is easy to forget that there are dangers around, not just for us, but for fellow believers. We have a responsibility for others. False teaching is all around us. Moral failures are always a possibility. We should keep an eye out for each other.
I imagine that if the young man’s boss had walked in, he wouldn’t have liked what he saw. The Lord has told all of us, not just our leaders, to love and watch out for one another. If we go to sleep on the job, He won’t be pleased, either. If we aren’t concerned about our fellow believers, we’re like a snoring lifeguard.