The Pursuit of Prodigals
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
Doug Banister tells the story of an unforgettable event which took place during World War II when Hitler’s armored tank division overran France.
On May 23, 1940, more than 220,000 British soldiers and over 100,000 Allied troops had retreated to the channel port of Dunkirk on the coast of France. Hitler’s army had pursued them but the next day, the advance halted. In England, the call went out for ships—any ships—to help with the rescue. The Royal Navy’s vessels could only save 17,000.
May 26, an unbelievable fleet set sail: fishing boats, sloops, yachts, tugs, sailboats, motorboats, ferries, and even the America’s Cup challenger Endeavor, all manned by civilians, poured out of the Thames River and the ports that lined the English Channel.
The daring feat—code-named Operation Dynamo—continued until June 4. Guided by the smoke and flames filling the sky above Dunkirk, the ragtag armada made its way through continuous German attack and treacherous waters to the stranded troops.
This fleet of 700 vessels, dubbed “The Little Ships of Dunkirk,” rescued 338,682 British, French, and Belgian troops and returned them safely to the shores of Great Britain.
It was one of the most remarkable naval rescue operations in history—all because ordinary men and women saw the need and translated it into an opportunity for service.
James is saying in this passage that we, the Church, are supposed to be doing the same thing. We are God’s ragtag armada, called to pursue and rescue those trapped by sin and the Enemy of their souls.
Can you imagine for a moment a doctor discovering a cancerous tumor in your body and telling you nothing about it for fear the news would ruin your schedule? What if he, instead, walked into the examination room and said, “Don’t worry about it; it’s nothing. Take a few weeks off and you should be fine.”
Would this be the loving thing to do? No! It isn’t loving for us to see a fellow believer pursuing sin, pat them on the back, and talk about the weather.
We have a responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ to help and challenge each other . . . and that’s not always easy.
By the way, James isn’t encouraging us to go around looking for sin in other believers’ lives and point it out. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that we shouldn’t pull the twig out of our neighbor’s eye until we’ve pulled the log out of our own! So before we call out sin or hypocrisy in someone else, we need to examine our own hearts.
James is encouraging us to be on the lookout for those trapped individuals who are making a practice of sin. They are the ones most in need of an immediate rescue attempt.
James is challenging every believer to show up, tell the truth, and offer assistance so the prodigal might be able to sail back to the Father’s house for cleansing and fellowship.
Let’s take James’ message to heart and pursue the prodigals in our lives today. Our little boats might not be well suited for crossing the rough seas, but we must set sail in spite of it . . . lives are counting on us.
Did God bring someone to mind as you read this devotional? If so, pray for strength to speak the truth to that person in love. If you have already spoken to that person and he or she wouldn’t listen, pray that God will change their heart.
Read Christ’s words in Matthew 18:12–35
as He reveals not only His love for prodigals but also how we should deal with Christians who are making a practice of sin.
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