“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
My heart is saddened today after hearing the news of another professing Christian gone astray. After years of battling the beast within, this young woman has announced her decision to lay down her weapons and leave the fight. She’s come to the conclusion that the beast is not what so many Christians have told her it was. In fact, she no longer believes it’s a beast at all. It’s been around for so long that she’s become accustomed to its presence. Any fear she once held regarding its deadly potential is gone. Instead of regarding the beast within her as an enemy, she now treats it as a docile companion which she’s actually learned to enjoy. Her only remaining fear is that other Christians will refuse to see her newly accepted companion in the same light. She knows they’ll look at the beast and see only the looming danger that she once feared, and she’s less than enthusiastic about hearing their inevitable warning cries.
What should we do when we see another Christian wander from the paths of righteousness? In the case of this particular woman, I’ve already heard many issue the preemptive admonition, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…” In our culture today, many seem to believe we have only two options in cases such as the one I’ve described: either accept the sin or stone the sinner. But are these really our only options, or does the Bible set another choice before us?
According to Scripture, when a professing believer turns away from the truth, only one course of action is acceptable, and it involves neither accepting the sin nor stoning the sinner. If another Christian becomes entangled by sin, we must seek to lovingly guide them back to the paths of truth. Many passages speak of this vital ministry:
- “Brother, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1-2).
- “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
- “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).
As followers of Christ, we have a high calling not only to battle sin in our own lives, but also to assist our brothers and sisters in their fight. If we become aware that a fellow believer has stumbled into sin, the Scripture is unmistakably clear regarding how we are to love them—we must reject the sin and seek to restore the one sinning. Too often, we sit back on our hands, trying to quiet our conscience with spiritual sounding excuses: “Well, I’ve got problems of my own.” “Who am I to judge?” “All we can do now is pray.” “You know what the Bible says, Judge not that ye be not judged.”
Far from revealing a heart of compassion, such statements may actually reveal a heart of cowardice. Do we believe the Scriptures or not? To wander from the truth is to stumble toward death! (James 1:15; Galatians 6:7-8; Romans 8:6, 13) How can we sit idly by as those who claim the name of Christ embrace the very enemy which seeks to destroy them? We must not!
When our brothers or sisters turn their backs on the truth, Christlike love will motivate us to pursue them, seeking to rescue their souls from death. Like Christ Himself, we reject the notion of throwing stones, but in genuine love we echo His words, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Love speaks, love warns, love gets involved.
Imagine knowing that the local water supply had been poisoned, and anyone who drank from it would eventually die. This poison, though, would take months or years to bring about its cruel end, and in the process, it would actually numb its victims, so they would remain unaware of their fatal condition. Complicating matters further, imagine that the poison was not only pleasant to the taste, but it was also addictive. The more one drank, the more one would desire to drink. And the more one drank, the less one would feel the poisonous effects.
What would you do? If you saw your friend lifting a glass of this tainted water to her lips, would you reason that you had no right to interfere with her choices? Would you question whether the poison was really that dangerous or hope that perhaps an antidote would be discovered before your friend became too affected by it? Of course you wouldn’t! You would shout out a warning not to take a drink and rush to knock the glass from her hand. Your actions would reflect the severity of the threat. So, too, should our response to sin reflect our awareness of its deadly potential.
Seeking to guide others back to the safety of following the truth is no easy task. It’s often messy, inconvenient, uncomfortable, difficult, and sometimes it can even be very painful. But if we believe God’s Word and desire His will, then we will understand how necessary it is that we express our love for other believers in this way. Our actions, however difficult at the time, will always be worthwhile and will always be rewarded. As we obey our Lord’s call to humbly and lovingly pursue wandering believers, we do so with worthy goals in mind—glorifying God and rescuing others from death. What more motivation do we need?
“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
Photo: Esther Groen