My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins James [5:19]–20
If you are a wanderer, come home. If you know and love someone who is wandering, go get the wanderer!
People everywhere have a tendency to wander, even in the church. That’s why the book of James addresses this problem in a practical letter to believers. The kind of discipleship he’s talking about is never solitary—it’s always life in context with other Christ followers. The tone is emphatic, as if he’s shouting, “My brothers and sisters, family of God! Go get the wanderer!” If we’re really brothers and sisters, if we’re a true family, we bear responsibility for our wandering siblings.
The portrait of a wanderer is painted with rebellion and danger. He roams around and never settles down. His relationships are momentary. He is lost, vaguely wondering if there’s something better, but caught in the not-so-merry-go-round of wandering. And wanderers can be daughters as often as they are sons.
Despite this bleak portrait, there’s still hope for a wanderer. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. When James writes, “if anyone among you wanders,” there are no disclaimers—and our excuses for not pursuing them fall flat. “She’s too far gone,” “His life is too complicated,” or “It’s too messy; I can’t get into that mix” are all wrong. This is about anyone.
Picture a prodigal . . . a fearful, doubtful, sensual, or willful wanderer. Does God’s Spirit bring a specific person to mind whom He wants you to approach? Perhaps it’s someone obvious—a child, a sibling, a close friend—to whom your heart immediately turns . . .
Go bring that person back. Don’t leave a tract in his mailbox. Don’t hope she drives by a billboard. Don’t sail a gospel blimp over his neighborhood. Rescue requires direct contact and a personal touch.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” This is not referring to physical death, but to the second death, an eternity separated from God in hell (see Revelation [20:14]–15). Although God may allow His children to wander, He never gives up on any of them. Neither should we.
Written by James MacDonald
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