Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17, nkjv).
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.
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, 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. Some are ashamed, convinced they could never face the folks at church anymore because of what they’ve done. 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” (James 5:19, esv)—from what is both now and eternally true.
And therefore they wander into darkness.
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. That’s because the darkness that exists outside of the truth can sort of be navigated for a little while. People can 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 would immediately begin to realize they no longer knew which way was up. They would suddenly start flailing for a way to get out of the darkness.
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.
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.
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 truth myself, but also for loving others enough to remind them of its strength and beauty. Please give me the courage to carry Your light into the darkness. In Jesus’ name, amen.