One of the greatest challenges any church can face is the turning of ones who have been faithful and active in the church to go back into the world and live in sin. It’s certainly not a new problem. Two of the oldest books of the New Testament are I Thessalonians and Galatians. In I Thessalonians 5:14-15 it says, “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” In Galatians 6:1-2 Paul wrote, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently, but watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
People do wander away from God. Sometimes it is because of neglect (Hebrews 2:1-3) but often it is because of some temptation or some frustration the person is facing in their daily life. When a person makes a commitment to God it is normally the case that they feel that they have put everything behind them. The old way of life is gone and they are a new creation before God and man. The problem is that the world around us doesn’t change. When we go back to work or school the next day the same problems will be there and they will expect you to react to them the same way you always have. If you try telling the people that you have changed and that you are not the same person any more, most will take a wait and see attitude. Then the first time you mess up and stumble in your life for God, they will be there to say, “See I knew you hadn’t really changed.” Peter said that those people think it strange that you do not run with them in the same excess of riotous living.
With some, when they wader away, there will be no turning back. They will head back into the world of sin with abandon and become worse than they ever were before. Jesus told a parable to illustrate this point. He told of a man that was possessed with a demon. He drove the demon out and it traveled through arid places looking for a place to stay but didn’t find anything. Finally he returned to the man where he had lived before and found him empty, swept clean and washed. He went and found seven other demons worse than him and brought them back with him to possess the man so that the last state with him was worse than the first. The point that stands out is that when we try to change just by driving the evil from our lives it won’t work. We must clean the life out but we must fill it back up with good, godly and righteous things so that when the demon tries to come back in there is no room for him in this person’s life.
Many of those who wander away could be brought back and become more dedicated to God than ever before. They need someone to care, to show interest in them personally, to pray for them by name and love them in spite of their failures. Spiritual people should work to restore the brother who has become overtaken by some fault or sin. The word translated “restore” is a medical term used for the resetting of a broken bone or a bone out of place. It means to put the bone back into place. The vivid picture is of one having their spiritual life out of joint, needing to have it restored to its right place.
God gave us two things to make certain of in the process of trying to restore the wandering brother. First be gentle. Allow God to have the control of your life. Be yielded to him. Second, remember that if you had faced the same temptations in the same circumstances you might have fallen just as they did. We like to say what we wouldn’t have done in similar conditions. But we can’t put ourselves completely into another persons place since we are all different and face entirely different trials. What would seem to be a light problem to some may seem to be overwhelming to another.
He went on to tell us to carry the burden of the one who has fallen. In so doing we fulfill the law of Christ. In the church we ought to be great at carrying heavy burdens. We should have exercised ourselves spiritually to the degree we have no problem carrying the heavy load of a brother. The story is told of a young boy who was seen carrying his crippled brother. A man stopped the boy and asked him if he wasn’t heavy for such a young boy to carry. He responded, “He’s not heavy. He is my brother.”
In James 5:19-20 it says, “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 a multitude of sins.”
What is the absolute worst thing a church or an individual Christian could do when a brother or sister wanders away from the Lord? The worst of all things is to ignore the problem and think the other person will come back on their own. Ignoring the problem shouts to the person who has wandered that no one cares whether they are there or not. It tells them that the people aren’t interested in them and that they think the situation is hopeless with them. It would be far better to go to the person and say something wrong than to not go or not say anything at all.
When people wander they already feel hopeless, alone and a failure. Why would we add to that list that they feel unloved by those in the church? A going church will make for a coming people. Who do you know that has been true to God in the past but have now wandered away and don’t seem interested any longer? Consider what you can do to make a difference in their life for eternity. The greatest favor you can possibly do for another person is to help them come back home to the Lord.