“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17)
If you were to look around from your seat in church, I hope you’d see a lot of familiar faces. But most likely, if you looked a little closer, you might also realize that a familiar face is missing, or sadly, maybe even two ……
Perhaps it’s not someone you knew very well. You’d spoken; you’d introduced yourself; you’d had one or two conversations; you knew a little bit about them. But mainly you were just accustomed to seeing them there, and now they’re gone. Do you wonder where they went?
People wander from church for a number of different reasons. Some are prodigals; both young and old — who willfully, even stubbornly become tired of being told what to do. Some are pleasure seekers who’ve simply found something else in life that makes them happier and seems like a better use of their time ….
Some are wounded, complete with a detailed story of how a person failed or disappointed them, leaving them disillusioned about God, the church, and Christian people in general. Some are ashamed, convinced they could never face the folks at church anymore because of what they’ve done. And then, some are just distracted. They were never really all that interested and hadn’t plugged in too deeply anyway …..
But if there’s one common denominator in what causes people to stray, the book of James says it’s that they wander “from the truth”, from what is both now and eternally true. And therefore they wander into darkness …..
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
They may not realize it yet, if their house of cards is still standing. If you were to go talk with them, you’d probably hear all the reasons and rationalizations, all the blame-shifting explanations for why they’re not in the fold right now, and they will feel feel completely justified by their excuses. That’s because the darkness that exists outside of the truth can be navigated for a little while. People begin to believe “their truth” and feel offended if you don’t accept their rationalizations. And it becomes easier once you begin to miss church attendance and fellowship with the body. The excuses come easier and more readily. People can even learn to adapt. They can think it’s exciting for a season ….
But if something important was ripped away from them; if one of their kids were to be hurt in a car accident, or if they were given a bad piece of personal news from the doctor, they immediately begin to call on God and sometimes they’ll realize they no longer know which way is up. They suddenly start flailing for a way to get out of the darkness. If you only pray and seek God when you’re in trouble — I tell you, you’re in trouble ….
It’s often at that point that people will remember the person who cared enough to go looking for them. They’ll remember the friend who came and reminded them of the truth, even when they didn’t want to hear it. They will usually even mouth all the necessary platitudes, but to appease the friends earnestly seeking them, or to just get what they need? Only God knows …..
Jesus asked the Father to sanctify His people by the truth, saying: “Your word is truth.” The psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105); truth in the darkness. So when you notice that a familiar face is missing, one who perhaps woke up this morning or went to bed last night feeling lost in the dark, try to find out where they are. Go to them. And tell them the truth; about a God who loves them, a Father who seeks them, and a brother or sister in Christ who cares enough to go after them. We are our “brothers keeper” and should be mindful of this …..
We are called to carry each others’ burdens, and if you who are walking in the light of the Spirit should feel a burden arise for one of your brothers or sisters, whether missing, drifting or not; you should follow the unction and leading of the Spirit and seek if at all possible to restore them ….
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2).
Let us pray ~
Father, how Your heart longs for those of Your children who’ve wandered from the truth. Thank You for proving this reality in my own life by how You’ve loved and sought me in my wandering. I pray today that my heart would be in tune with Yours, that You would give me a passion not only for loving Your Word and Your truth myself, but also for loving others enough to remind them of its strength and beauty. Please give me the courage to boldly speak in love to Your prodigals, and to carry Your light into the darkness, and be a beacon of light and love to guide them back home. Here am I, my Lord; send me, and use me, all for Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen …..