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God’s Search and Rescue Team

It’s always an anxious time, especially for family and friends, when someone is reported missing in the wilderness. Search and rescue teams spring into action. We wait expectantly for any word of the missing person. It’s a moment of great joy if the missing person is found alive and well. It’s a time of great sorrow and mourning when it’s too late.

As Christians, we are all members of God’s search and rescue team. That’s what James tells us as he concludes his epistle. He tells us that it is our responsibility to help restore straying sinners to the truth. This is almost never a pleasant task because it involves confronting people with their sin, and people who are turning their backs on God and His Word often want to do the same to God’s messengers.

It would be much easier simply to go along with the attitude of the world that says we should just mind our own business. Other people have their own lives, and we shouldn’t meddle. People make their own decisions, and we shouldn’t interfere. In many ways, that’s true. But when we’re talking about someone wandering away from the faith, we’re talking about a matter of eternal life and death.

Think about it this way: you’re walking across a bridge and someone near you slips and slides through a broken part and is barely holding on. You’re right there to help. Do you say, “Well, that’s really none of my business”? Of course not! You stoop down and help him. Every one of our fellow believers who is wandering from the truth is like that person holding on to the bridge. They need to be rescued.

As he concludes his epistle, James wants his readers to see the urgency of bringing people to repentance. That’s really what James has been doing throughout—calling his readers to turn from sin. Now he says, “I have called you to repentance; now do this for others.”

As the Lord sends us to call people to repentance, He sends us with the certain message of sins forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Notice our text says that “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” He doesn’t say “might save” or “probably will cover.” He says God will save from death and will cover sins. God will show mercy and forgiveness.

That is the whole reason Jesus came into this world. Jesus says in Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” He says in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Of course, at one time we were all like wandering sheep. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus’ desire to save our souls from death led Him to go to the cross. There, He paid for every last one of our sins, and by His resurrection He has indeed delivered our souls from death.

God’s love for us in Jesus is beyond anything we can imagine. He keeps searching for His lost and wandering sheep—again and again and again if necessary. God always cares, always loves, always forgives. Let that be your confidence as you participate in God’s search and rescue team.

“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.” (James 5:19-20, ESV)

Robert Sauers is pastor of Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions.