“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
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
“I think you’re playing with fire,” I told a sister in the Lord one day on the telephone.
My voice was strong. My voice was firm. I had love in my heart, but my voice was emphatic. There was no getting around the warning. It needed to be heard. Not because I wanted to warn my sister in the Lord. After all, I knew she might not like me. She might reject me. She might feel hurt. She might hate me. She might walk away. My flesh easily could have held back the warning. To suit myself. To please me. To protect myself. From however she might react. But I was compelled by the Spirit of God to speak the truth in love.
My friend had recently shared about a temptation she had fallen prey to. It had been hard for her to share what she had done, and how she had needed to repent, and how she still felt afterward. Now, some weeks later, she was doing something that opened wide the door for the same temptation. I could sense Satan circling around her licking his chops. Altogether too quickly she could fall right back into the temptation – sinning against God, bringing shame on herself, hurting others indirectly, and facing potentially dangerous consequences.
I had been walking down the New York City streets that day when I sought the Lord to see if He wanted me to call anyone. I do that from time to time to see if there is anyone He wants me to reach out to in order to love, to encourage, to pray for, to minister to, to help and support, to point to Christ, to God’s Word, and, yes, in some instances, to warn. He had strongly placed this woman’s name on my heart. So I had called, not knowing what He would lead me to do.
I had felt led to ask a question or two, and how she answered is what the Lord used to compel me to issue a warning.
We talked for a few minutes, and I explained the warning I had been led to give. I pointed her to scriptures and made sure she knew I loved her. Then we turned our attention to other matters.
Sometimes the last thing in the world we want to do is warn a friend or family member that he or she might be headed in the wrong direction or already have gone the wrong way, but when the Lord leads us to do so, we have an obligation to obey Him. We need to fear Him, not the person. We need to so love Him that we will obey Him, and so love that person that we care more about his or her relationship with God or lack thereof and need for one or need to return to his or her relationship with God that we are willing to risk his or her dislike, hatred, anger, rejection, and even possible abandonment in order to be faithful to the Lord and to demonstrate His love in us for that person by issuing the warning.
My sister in the Lord heard the warning. What she would do in response to it was between her and God. But I had done my job by obeying God.
Please don’t shrink back from warning friends, and family, or anyone else for that matter, even strangers, when you see the person in rebellion toward God or at risk of falling into temptation IF THE SPIRIT OF GOD COMPELS YOU TO DO SO. Delivering such a warning can be a matter of life or death, of having a relationship with God or not having one, the quality of one’s relationship with God, the need for repentance, someone’s eternity and where he or she will spend it, and only God knows what else.
The truth may be hard for someone to hear, and hard for us to deliver in the way of a warning, but when it’s God prompting us to deliver it, we need to humble ourselves and in the strength of God’s Holy Spirit – obey.