Is Other People’s Faith Your Business?
Read James 5:19-20 (ESV)
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.
According to James, is it loving to leave people who wander from the faith alone and mind your own business? Or is it loving to try to bring them back?
“Don’t push your religion on me.” “My faith (or lack of) is a private matter.” “Christians should mind their own business.” These are common sentiments when it comes to Christians “prying” into the spiritual lives of others. If people want to deny God’s existence, denounce the faith they used to profess, or deconstruct their Biblical, historic Christian faith to something else, why should we care so much? Isn’t it loving to just let people do whatever makes them happy?
In today’s verses James suggests otherwise. He tells his readers that if they know someone who was once part of the church strays from the truth (the Gospel as taught in Scripture), then they should do whatever they can to bring that person back to experience a saving faith. Why should we do this? Because it is a matter of eternal life and death. James said that bringing a sinner to the truth of the Gospel “will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” This isn’t merely referring to a physical death. James is talking about eternal punishment and eternal separation from God! Those who wander from the faith are in serious danger!
If you knew that your neighbor was speeding down a road with the bridge washed out ahead, wouldn’t warning them to turn around and go a different way be the most loving thing you could possibly do? But see, that is the spiritual reality of every nonbeliever that you know. They are going 90 mph on the highway to hell. If they don’t turn around and change course, they are destined for an eternity of anguish.
Many people try to diminish the reality of hell. But when we go back to the Bible, the reality of hell is clear. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus described the final judgment. Those who are “on his left” are those who denied him. This is their fate: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v.41) ... And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (v. 46).
Because James mentioned that these people who have wandered away were once among the believers, you may be wondering if these people were true believers who have now lost their salvation. But James was addressing people who identified as Christians in name only such as church attenders who never truly accepted Christ for themselves. It is likely that in James’ day, there were people who began associating with the early believers but stayed on the fence and finally strayed away. Today, we have plenty of people who self-identify as “Christians” or people who were raised in Christian households but have never personally made a commitment to follow Christ and they wander away from God to pursue the world instead.
These wanderers could not be truly saved because James said they are in eternal danger. The Bible is clear that once a person is truly saved, they are always saved. In John 10:27-29, Jesus said: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Once a person places their faith in Jesus Christ and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they are truly saved and Satan cannot steal back their souls. God will keep true believers by His grace.
But the apostle Peter had strong words for people who falsely confess to be Christians and later turn away. “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to his own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire’” (2 Peter 2:21-22). These people were exposed to the truth of the Gospel but ultimately rejected Christ and returned to their life of sin.
Friends, whenever someone wanders away from the truths of Scripture, the most loving thing we can do for them is not give up on them and try to bring them back into the fold of God. The consequences are literally life and death. We aren’t responsible for the choice they make but we are responsible for continuing to share the Gospel with them and pray for them. We make their faith our business out of true love and concern for their souls.
Father, You know that there are people on my heart who once claimed to know You but have now rejected You. Please give me the courage and the words to share with them so that they might turn back and truly find salvation in You. Work on their hearts, Lord. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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