“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19–20
Yesterday I wrote about the our need for one another if we’re to experience spiritual victory in our lives. I believe that God has created us to thrive and be most healthy in community and that we need to guard against the attitude or tendency to try and be spiritual lone rangers. Remember the Lone Ranger wasn’t alone. He had Tonto and just as surely we need partners in our lives if were to become all God has called us to become.
Another aspect of protection that we derive from being in community is the safe guard community has when it comes to running off track spiritually. It may be that we become spiritually imbalanced, focusing along one line of development or activity and neglecting other essential aspects. Caring members of our community can help to keep us balanced and on track. It may also be that we become distracted or discouraged and actually begin to spiritually drift away. Once again our caring church family has a role to help to call us back.
James briefly writes about this protective aspect of being part of a church community as he closes his letter. Reading between the lines a little we notice that there may have been a hesitancy among church members to interfere or involve themselves in the private spiritual lives of their brothers and sisters. We see this because James writes about two incentives inherent in the effort of calling a brother or sister back from error. The first is that you will have saved a person from sinful error and death, and the second is that you will cover a multitude of sins.
But whose sins are covered? Is it the sins of the one called back or those of the one who is calling?
I believe it’s both. Soul winning, of course, doesn’t produce merit or forgiveness for sin. God’s love has already produced all the forgiveness we’ll ever need. However, humility as we do our part in working with Jesus to call others away from sin serves to reveal the presence of sin in our own lives which produces repentance and confession and these in turn produce the realization of God’s promise to forgive. So you see, working for the spiritual benefit of others does help to draw the laborers themselves closer to Jesus even as they are working to draw the sinner away from sin and closer to him, and this results in a multitude of sins being covered.
Spiritual victory for ourselves and others relies on our doing our part in the body of Christ, the church.