The work of reconciling
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20
Tactfully admonishing a person who is wandering from the truth is one of the most difficult tasks in the work of a caring believer. Yet with loving concern, “whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins” (James 5:20). A similar admonition was given in the Old Testament. “Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately… If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins” (Ezekiel 3:17, 20). We are our brother’s keeper. Wisely and considerately, therefore, we must point out to our brother or sister the error of his or her conduct that they might be restored in their relationship with God. There are countless people who are outside of the fellowship of the church trapped in sin and unable to turn from the error of their way. They too, must hear the gospel of salvation. A. T. Robertson wrote at the turn of 20th century these remarkable words that have not lost their significance: “‘It is enough to discourage any social worker in the slums or in the tenement districts of our cities to see the hopeless condition in which the victims live. Drugs have fastened some with clamps of steel; drink has fired the blood of others; cigarettes have deadened the will of others; and immorality has hurled still others into the pit. They stumble into the rescue halls, ‘cities of refuge’ in our cities. Happy are those who know how to save souls like these who have known better days and who have gone down into the valley of sin and sorrow.’” When we reach out with a desire to help the one who is perishing in sin, we are helping them see the danger of dying an eternal death and exclusion from eternal life if they will not trust Jesus in their lives for their salvation. We must remember that God uses us as instruments to restore the spiritual relationship between God and man. Salvation, then, is and remains God’s work. We are only fellow workers for God (see 1 Corinthians 3:9). When God forgives sin, He accepts the sinner as if he had never sinned. He removes sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and covers the sinner with the mantle of righteousness. Of course, God forgives the sinner on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And His forgiveness continues to flow out of His gracious act of forgiving sinners. God wants to show that forgiven Christians ought to work together for the mutual well-being of the body of Christ. “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).