Rescuing a Wanderer

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).

If you are a wanderer, come home. If you know and love someone who is wandering, go get the wanderer!

People everywhere have a tendency to wander, even in the church. That’s why the book of James addresses this problem in a practical letter to believers. The kind of discipleship he’s talking about is never solitary—it’s always life in context with other Christ followers. The tone is emphatic, as if he’s shouting, “My brothers and sisters, family of God! Go get the wanderer!” If we’re really brothers and sisters, if we’re a true family, we bear responsibility for our wandering siblings.

The portrait of a wanderer is painted with rebellion and danger. He roams around and never settles down. His relationships are momentary. He is lost, vaguely wondering if there’s something better, but caught in the not-so-merry-go-round of wandering. And wanderers can be daughters as often as they are sons.

Despite this bleak portrait, there’s still hope for a wanderer. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. When James writes, “if anyone among you wanders,” there are no disclaimers—and our excuses for not pursuing them fall flat.  “She’s too far gone,” “His life is too complicated,” or “It’s too messy; I can’t get into that mix” are all wrong. This is about anyone.

Picture a prodigal . . . a fearful, doubtful, sensual, or willful wanderer. Does God’s Spirit bring a specific person to mind whom He wants you to approach? Perhaps it’s someone obvious—a child, a sibling, a close friend—to whom your heart immediately turns. . .

Go bring that person back. Don’t leave a tract in his mailbox. Don’t hope she drives by a billboard. Don’t sail a gospel blimp over his neighborhood. Rescue requires direct contact and a personal touch.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” This is not referring to physical death, but to the second death, an eternity separated from God in hell (see Revelation 20:14–15). Although God may allow His children to wander, He never gives up on any of them. Neither should we.

Going and finding a wanderer is messy business. Your heart will be heavy, your feelings may be hurt, and your toes could get stepped on. But are we selfless enough to risk our own comfort to rescue a wandering soul? God forgive us when we huddle in our holy enclave and don’t allow our hearts to be moved for people at risk.

If you were once a wanderer and have come home, someone was used by God to bring you back. It’s time to reciprocate that priceless gift. Ask God to enable you to reach out . . . then go get the wanderer!


  • How can you relate to the experience of a wanderer? Who is the “someone” who brought you back?
  • Who is the wanderer the Holy Spirit is prompting you to bring back? Ask Him to grow your compassion and urgency for this person.

Lord, forgive me for focusing on myself. Fill my heart with compassion for wanderers. Bring to mind the person You would have me go get. Help me proclaim the good news boldly and without apology—that You love those who wander and already paid the price in full for them to come home. Remind me that the result is not my responsibility. I am merely the messenger. I want all I do to be for Your glory. In the name of Jesus, who performed the greatest rescue this world has ever known, amen.