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, ESV).
Scenario A: You are a wanderer. Solution: Come home!
Scenario B: You know and love someone who is wandering. Solution: Go get the wanderer!
People everywhere have a tendency to wander—even in the church. Sheep wander even in the flock of the Good Shepherd. That’s why James addresses this problem in his practical letter to believers. The whole book of James is about maturity and robust discipleship. The brand of discipleship James promotes is never solitary—it’s always life in context with other believers. His tone is emphatic, as if he’s shouting, “My brothers and sisters, family of God! Go get the wanderer!” If we’re really brothers and sisters, if we’re a true family, then we bear responsibility for our wandering sibling.
The portrait of a wanderer is painted with rebellion and danger. He roams around and never settles down. His relationships are all momentary. He is lost, vaguely wondering if there’s something better, but caught in the not-so-merry-go-round of wandering.
Despite this bleak portrait, there’s still hope for the wanderer. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. When James writes, “if anyone among you wanders,” that “anyone” has no disclaimers. Our excuses fall flat:
“She’s too far gone.” Wrong—anyone.
“His life is too complicated.” Wrong—anyone.
“It’s too messy; I can’t get into that mix.” Wrong—anyone.
Begin to picture the prodigal, the pleasure-seeker, the wounded, ashamed, distracted wanderer. Does God’s Spirit bring a specific person to mind whom He wants you to approach and attempt to bring back? Perhaps it’s an obvious person—a child, a sibling, a close friend—to whom your heart immediately turns.
Go bring that person back.
God’s Word specifies, “someone brings him back.” Someone. It’s a person. Most authentic life change happens face-to-face and life-on-life. Don’t leave a tract in his mailbox. Don’t hope she drives by a billboard. Don’t sail a gospel blimp over his neighborhood. Rescue requires direct contact and a personal touch. Go get the wanderer!
The stakes couldn’t be higher. “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James is not referring to physical death here but to the second death, an eternity separate from God in hell (see Revelation 20:14–15). Although God may allow His children to wander, He never gives up on any of them. Neither should we.
Going and finding a wanderer is a messy business. Your heart will be heavy, your feelings may be hurt, and your toes could get stepped on. You may be called arrogant: “Who do you think you are to tell me how to live my life?” But are we selfless enough to risk our own comfort and reputation to rescue a wandering soul? God forgive us when we huddle in our holy enclave and don’t allow our hearts to be moved for people at risk.
If you were once a wanderer and have come home, someone, in some way, was used by God to bring you back. It’s time to reciprocate that priceless gift. Ask God, “Show me whom I can invite to come home as someone extended the invitation to me.”
It’s time—go get the wanderer.
Lord, forgive me for my selfish thinking, for focusing on myself. Fill my heart with compassion for the wanderer. Bring to mind the person You would have me go get. Help me proclaim the good news boldly and without apology—that You love those who wander and already paid the price in full for them to come home. Remind me that the result is not my responsibility. I am merely the messenger. I want all I do to be for Your glory—Yours alone. In the name of Jesus, who executed the greatest rescue mission this world has ever known, amen.