James 5:19-20 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
It is interesting that this letter of James, one of the most practical and hard-hitting in the whole Bible in the area of avoiding hypocrisy, would end on this note. He has talked about various ways that each of us is capable of “wandering from the truth,” but here he is saying that those who have done so can return, and that we can be involved in that. That’s an extremely important truth. Some people focus on Hebrews 10:26-27, (If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.) but few people genuinely taste God’s salvation and then depart from it so thoroughly. James is pointing out that bringing wanderers back is a noble and fruitful endeavor. I’m reminded of the Lord’s words to Ezekiel about being a watchman. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) The people we seek to draw back to the truth may not respond to what we say and do, but we will have discharged our responsibility toward them. However, they may respond, and that is what James is talking about. Repentance works! We aren’t to be running around condemning people, but rather speaking the truth to them in love (Ephesians 4:15) so that they may be drawn by that love into right relationship with God.
I am certainly reminded of the man whose wake we held last night and who will be cremated today. Before he came to Christ he was an alcoholic, and some of the things he told me about his past activities certainly aren’t fit for expression. However, some people led him to the truth, to the One who is Truth, (John 14:6) and he was indeed born again. We are able to give him a joyful sendoff, because we know He went to be with his Lord. His past sins, which were indeed many, were thoroughly covered over, just as this passage says. I need to remember him as I relate to all sorts of people, never thinking that anyone is beyond the reach of the grace and mercy of God. It is the ones who think they are OK who are in the greatest danger! I must remember that it is only by the grace of God that I myself am able to walk with Him, and never fall back into blind pride. I am to warn people in all love and humility, so that they too may know the truth and be set free. (John 8:32)
Father, thank You for Your presence in last night’s service and for the assurance that You will be present today as well. Thank You for the powerful testimony that was given to the few non-Christians present. I pray that the seeds that were planted would bear fruit in them as well, so that this death would result in much life, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!