It’s an ugly picture. In one of his letters Peter uses the graphic image of a dog’s returning to his vomit or a recently washed sow’s returning to her mud.
What he was writing about, of course, was a believer who wanders away from God. If we’re honest, we must admit that it isn’t a particularly difficult thing to do, because this world is often so alluring. Sometimes we’re mesmerized by its glitz and glamor, finally waking up only to realize we’re miles away from God.
Have you ever wandered? In adolescence, perhaps? Or maybe in college or at another particularly difficult point in your life?
I hope you’re back. If you are, I’m glad you came home.
But not everyone has. Not yet. So James closes his letter with a short encouragement for us to do whatever we can for these folks.
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).
You’re probably not a preacher, and you may not serve God in any “official” sense, but I’d like for you to do three simple things today.
One, make a list of ten believers you know who have wandered away from God. Perhaps it’s a family member, former co-worker, a neighbor, somebody who used to attend your church. You could probably come up with a hundred, but just do ten.
Two, pray for every name on that list. Pray that God’s Spirit would work in their hearts and move them to repentance. Ask him to orchestrate the events of their lives so they see that the path they’re on will end in destruction. Ask him to open a door for you to be able to speak an encouraging word.
Three, take one step—just one—to let God use you to work in their lives. It might be something as simple as a “How’s it going?” text or email. It could be a phone call or an encouraging note or a Facebook post. But do something.
We undersell ourselves, I think. We assume all the serious spiritual work will be done by the guys who stand in our pulpits or serve as our shepherds.
If I understand James correctly, though, he’s saying that just an “average” every-day believer can have an enormous effect on someone’s soul. It’s incredible to think that you and I can “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins,” isn’t it?
So today—make a list, say a prayer, initiate contact—and see what God does.