You Are Your Brother’s Keeper
During these months of COVID-19 isolation, too many Christians have used the inability to worship weekly in a brick-and-mortar church as an opportunity to revert to pre-salvation lifestyles. It seems that their behavior was held in check by weekly worship and fellowship with the saints. They have resumed drinking alcohol, smoking (a variety of products), fornicating, cursing, etc., etc., etc.
This phenomenon is not new. When the Christian Jews were forced to scatter from Jerusalem and could not visit the temple, study at their old synagogue, or hear words of wisdom from Peter, Matthew, and John, they strayed from the truth they knew.
You see, some Christians’ relationship with Jesus is very fragile and must be strengthened by stronger Saints, lest they fall away from the faith. As it is now in the 21st Century, it was so with First Church. James, the brother of Jesus, concerned by this behavior, ended his letter to the diaspora with the following mandate:
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20, NIV).
Let’s look at James’ mandate carefully and get a good understanding:
My brothers and sisters – James is talking to fellow Christians.
If one of you should wander from the truth – “Wander” could mean that the person was led away from truth by someone else or it could mean the person went off on his own following worldly lies or fleshly desires. The truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the lifestyle He taught and demonstrated.
And someone should bring that person back – Many Christians feel they have a choice if they want to reach out to the wandering brother or sister or not. Fearing rejection, they say, “Why try, he will not listen anyway.” Or they give up too easily, “I tried to talk to her, but she said she didn’t want people in her business. So, Oh well!”
But Paul taught the Galatians that those who are spiritually mature have a duty to try to restore the spiritual wanderer and he explained the mindset the restorer must have:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual [that is, you who are responsive to the guidance of the Spirit] are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness [not with a sense of superiority or self-righteousness], keeping a watchful eye on yourself, so that you are not tempted as well. Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love]” (Galatian 6:1-2, Amplified Bible). The love of the Lord should compel Christians to do all that they can to help the wayward Sister or Brother (the backslider) to reestablish fellowship with God.
James explains what happens when the spiritually strong help the spiritually weak cry out to God for forgiveness and restoration:
“remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
How wonderful to be able to serve God by encouraging our brethren to live the truths they know. But I do want to relieve you of feelings of failure if they reject your outstretched hands and words of compassion and love. The final decision is theirs to make. Even God Himself will not force a person to serve Him.
However, if they do receive your encouraging words and come back into fellowship with their Heavenly Father and resume assembling with the saints, please know that “you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God” (James 5:20, Message Bible).
Share your experience of lovingly encouraging someone to come back to God. How did they respond? Join the conversation.
NOTICE: THIS ENDS OUR STUDY OF THE LETTER OF JAMES. I HAVE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED STUDYING IT WITH YOU. I HOPE YOU ENJOYED IT TOO.
Dr. Dorothy J. Haire
Author & Blogger
Both church planter and pastor of Bread of Life Christian Church for the last 18 years, Dr. Haire is a beloved mother and successful author. Empowered to deliver the word of God to His people, Dr. Haire uses her digital platform to educate and develop Christian communities that are rooted in the word of Christ.