By Robin G. Jordan
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 NKJV)
In the politically-correct, post-modern, post-Christian culture of the twenty-first century we are discouraged from drawing to the attention of our fellow Christians that they have fallen into error and have compounded their error by leading others into error. Our culture frowns upon criticizing the religious beliefs and practices of other people. No one group, we are told, has a monopoly upon the truth. Those who violate this cultural prohibition are regarded as bigoted and intolerant. They themselves are subjected to censure.
Is this, however, what Jesus taught his followers?
Jesus told his disciples that is better to be thrown into the sea with a quern, or millstone, hung about one’s neck, than to cause one of “these little ones” stumble (Luke 17:1-2). The little ones of whom Jesus was speaking included his followers as well as the children brought to him for him to lay hands and bless.
The Jews in the time of Jesus were not sailors, and they had a great dread of the Mediterranean Sea, “the Great Green Sea” as both the Jews and the Egyptians called it. The sea in their minds represented chaos and destruction and the forces of chaos and destruction.
Death by drowning was to the Jews a most unpleasant form of death. Anyone who drowned in the sea and whose body was not recovered would not be buried with his forefathers. His body would be devoured by the denizen of the deep.
Yet Jesus pointed to both their attention and ours that such a death, as horrible as it was to contemplate, was better than what awaited those who cause one of his little ones to stumble.
Jesus also taught his disciples that if their brother sins, they should rebuke him; and if he repents, they should forgive him (Luke 17:3).
Jesus is not talking about a natural brother, a brother with the same parents or the same father or mother. He is using “brother” in a much wider sense.
We cannot ignore those who are endangering the souls of Christ’s “little ones.” We cannot simply dismiss them as reprobate and beyond redemption. Who is to say that if we speak a word of rebuke, the Holy Spirit may speak to their hearts, and cause them to repent?
We also cannot leave Christ’s “little ones” in their hands without also speaking a word of warning, making them aware of the danger to their soul. God through his Word constrains us to speak. We have no choice in the matter.
We cannot pretend, as some would have us do, that it is not our place to say anything. Or we should keep quiet for the sake of church unity. On the contrary, we have an obligation to rebuke and to warn.
We must one day give an account to God for every thing that we have said and done or failed to say and do. Jesus taught his followers that God would require an even stricter accounting from those who teach.
God has placed our brother in our keeping. We are compelled to speak the truth in love. If we truly love our brother, if we have his spiritual well being at heart, we will not leave him to wander far from the truth. We will seek to turn him from the error of his way. We will warn him when others endanger his soul. We can do no less.