My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20, NIV
One of the characteristics most lacking in our culture today is intentionality. Being intentional with another person means making space in our lives to notice, listen and respond to people in our life with care. These kinds of relationships clash with our individualistic, busy schedules. It is easier to say a quick “hello” at church or engage in a controlled dialogue on social media than it is to carve out time to sit with someone and listen to their heart.
Not only do intentional relationships take up time, but they can be messy and uncomfortable.
We are all a complex mix of sinner and saint, and at one point or another we live out of the junk inside of us, hurting those in our midst. And no matter how many times we encounter these behaviors, we still seem surprised when we witness them in our churches or small groups. We expect the Christian community to behave differently (usually while ignoring the planks in our own eye), and if they don’t, we feel justified in telling them so and then letting them go. We cite the other person’s sin as a good enough reason to cease being an intentional friend to them.
But is this truly the way of Jesus?
Our verse in James certainly doesn’t let us off the hook that easily. We often interpret this verse as meaning “if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should tell that person about their sin….”
But it does not say that.
It says to go get them and bring them back. But in order for them to be restored, a relationship has to be built on trust, faithfulness and sincerity. That person has to know it is not about who is “right or wrong” but is ultimately about whether you have their best interest in mind.
As Christians, we are called to pursue those who wander and lovingly call them back to a safe and welcoming community. In our Walking with Others curriculum, a subsequent course to The Journey, Rob Loane writes,
“If we are going to encourage the actual application and integration of the gospel into our everyday lives then we need supportive places to prayerfully, honestly and patiently sort out what we are hearing and what adults are wrestling with.”
It is not enough to tell people what they should be doing, and often telling them is the last thing we should do. In order to “bring people back”, we must create a sacred space for them, a space in which they are safe to work through their brokenness in the midst of other similarly broken people.
When I think about the ways I’ve been brought back to Jesus, it has been through those who have sat with me, listened to me and loved me. They made space in their lives to love me as Jesus does, and this brought me back to the love of Jesus. It is this love that keeps “saving me from death and covering my multitude of sins”, and it is this love that I long to share with others who feel excluded and marginalized.
How can you be intentional with another person today? In what ways are you seeking to build intentional relationships within our church community?