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 sin.-James 5:19-20
I am the middle of one of the busiest weeks of the year but I thought it prudent to hit pause and address an issue.
If someone you love wanders away from the truths of Christianity; here are seven steps to follow:
(2) Get the facts. Do not go on hearsay or gossip. If someone tells you of someone else in sin, you should ask, “Have you personally checked out the facts?” Then, direct the one telling you not to talk to anyone else, but to go to the sinning person. If you are the one to go, don’t begin with accusations. First, ask questions to determine the truth. Does the issue involve a major doctrine or opinion on a minor issue? Is it a matter of immaturity or spiritual weakness, where you need to help him grow, or of defiantly walking away from God (1 Thess. 5:14)?
(3) Check your own heart. There is no room for being judgmental. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Your motive should be to restore the straying one, not to put him in his place or to prove that you’re right and he’s wrong. Make sure that you are under the control of the Holy Spirit and displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22-23; 6:1). The word “restore” (Gal. 6:1) was used of mending torn nets and of setting broken bones so that they would heal. Think of how gently you would want a doctor to do that with you, and be that gentle in dealing with a person caught in some sin.
(4) Pray. Do not attempt to restore a straying person before you pray for him (James 5:16-18). Prayer puts you in the right place before God, dependent on His grace. Only then are you able to minister to the straying. You can’t properly talk to men about God until you’ve talked to God about men. Especially, pray for the right time and opening.
(5) Make sure that love for God and love for your brother are your motives for going. You should desire to please God and you should show genuine concern for your erring brother. Generally, if a man is in sin, another man should go to him. If a woman is in sin, another woman should go. It is not wise for a man to go alone to a woman (other than his wife or a family member), or for a woman to go alone to talk to a man.
(6) Go directly to the person. Do not go behind his back and try to campaign for your point of view or to try to convince others to do what God is calling you to do. Go alone at first. If he listens, you’ve won your brother. If he refuses to listen, take two or three others. Eventually, it may need to be told to the church (Matt. 18:15-17).
(7) Think through in advance the proper approach and wording. Study how Nathan confronted David for starters (2 Sam. 12:1-14). Dr. Howard Hendricks tells of how the wife of a workaholic pastor, who was neglecting his family, asked him to speak with her husband. Hendricks waited until they were alone and casually asked, “Do you smoke?” The pastor was shocked by the question and replied, “Of course not!” Hendricks persisted, “Why not?” He got what he expected: “Because my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Then Hendricks sprang the trap: “Then why are you abusing the temple and neglecting your family by overworking?” Pow! Be prepared for the one in sin to accuse you of some shortcoming, and do not get into a verbal war. Just stick to the issue.
If you’re sitting in your easy chair by the fire and you know of a brother or sister who is lost in the storm, God asks you to inconvenience yourself. Get up, put on your coat, and go out into the storm to try to rescue your brother. It may not be fun, but it is an expression of genuine love and faith in action. That’s what James is all about!