Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like whenever there’s a life-threatening tragedy (save the latest Sully movie), the ‘paramedic’ or the hero is soon forgotten and the ‘saved’ person is most remembered. I just watched an interview of a 15 year anniversary -September 11th Twin-Tower victim who testified about his being pulled out by firemen and paramedics, but the surviving paramedics were not part of it! Most paramedics do not get praised publicly, and are seldom known outside of their work and family, but they relentlessly train to save lives from traumatic situations with the latest techniques and technology.
Similarly, I’ve just come to realize the importance of ecclesiastical ‘paramedics.’ They are often the church’s first responders to spiritual crises. No, they are not super-saints who have no issues themselves, but they are Christ loving, sin-struggling believers like most of us. And what do they do? They are not afraid to pull sinners out of the dark fire of life. The end of the book of James provides an encouraging, if not heroic description of these anonymous saints.
James 5:19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,
James 5:20 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.
Soul Death, wow…this is serious, if not eternally tragic! The context suggests that even in the church, are there times when believers “wander from the truth.” Note: this is not an easy and fun kind of meddling, and our passage above doesn’t suggest intervention will always work; as notice that the word “if” conditions the entire passage. “If” someone wonders, and “if” someone brings him back – means, sometimes in God’s providence this happens with success. But normally “wandering” is sad, disappointing and often emotionally deflating for those close to the subjects. Sometimes, we deceive ourselves by not wanting to touch a wanderer (see I Cor 5:2), and we tell ourselves we are practicing ‘mercy’ towards them. Mercy towards wandering sinners? Certainly God will grant mercy upon their confession and admission of sin, but that will be God’s prerogative. Christians who wander from the truth reek havoc on their own and other peoples lives, because they “wander from truth (God himself!)” and of consequence “stumble into errors and lies.” If you know of someone ‘wandering from the truth’, we must give them the truth in patience, while carefully listening, but guiding them to and by the Holy Spirit’s power to see their sin and His light. If you are a person who knows you have wondered, you probably don’t realize just how bad and how far a distance you’ve absconded! Call that Christian brother/sister you respect or bow before God himself and be prepared to deal with serious sins, as God himself is not mocked. However, Jesus is compassionate to the truthful and lowly (Jeremiah 3:12,13). At first it will hurt and may cost more suffering/embarrassment as you return to Christ, but Jesus is able to mend such wounds over time.
So, we desperately need in the church spiritual minded humble and yet bold paramedics who should be recognized for “saving a soul from death.” A multitude of sins are often covered (past and future) when “whomever brings back a sinner from his wandering” loves God’s word enough to see a potentially fatal situation developing. Let us all be more alert and sensitive to sin, first in ourselves so that we will be fit to act as spiritual paramedics who can protect the church from sins ruinous effects.
Grace be with us,