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
A psychiatrist once asked me why I felt the need to reach others with the Gospel. He thought that a Christian’s efforts were tied directly to some attempt to earn favor with God, to earn a medal, or a feather in my cap. I can’t respond to the motivation of everyone, but the message of James in the verse above is clear that the idea of bringing back a “sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death.”
Who is the wanderer? You’ll remember that earlier in his letter James encouraged us to be more than hearers of the word but to be people who put the message of the Gospel to work in our lives. The wanderer may hear, but does not apply the message and therefore deludes himself.
Recognizing the need is one thing, but rescuing the wanderer requires us to take action to bring them back from the brink. Paul recognized the same when he encouraged the Galatians with a similar message:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness”(Galatians 6:1).