Want to Save a Life?
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
When I worked in the Emergency Room, I was routinely involved in the care of those who were severely sick or injured. Not every day was a save-a-life kind of day, and not every patient was in mortal peril, but the job inherently involved providing medical care to those who were in critical need. So, it was a position that was granted a certain hero-like status in the eyes of others. At the time, I thought it was an important job, and it was. It turns out it just wasn’t the most important job of my life.
I now work more in addiction medicine, which may not be quite as flashy as the ER, but probably comes closer to my God-given life mission. In addiction medicine, the job is to help those who’ve struggled as I’ve struggled, pointing them towards recovery. It can be a maddening job, as failure and relapse are daily occurrences. Still, when someone does well, turning his or her life around, it is a profoundly rewarding job.
This seems to be the tone of today’s passage. In it, James summed up the point of his book. We are to follow God, be transformed, and then point others in the same direction. We’re to go to heaven and take as many with us as we can. We’re to pursue faith and recovery and in doing so, we’re to encourage those around us to follow. This is our life mission and in fulfilling it, we save others from death, covering a multitude of sins. In doing so, we act heroically.
There are a few pitfalls here. First, we don’t save anyone ourselves. Only God can save. When we make it all about us, we show that we’re still following ourselves, not God. Second, we’re not responsible for the outcome. When we see someone struggling and we try to help – but they fail anyway – it’s natural to feel responsible. We cannot have faith or recover for anyone else though. Our job is to be obedient to God, point others to him, and leave the results up to him. Finally, we can’t let failure stop us. Not everyone will come to faith and not everyone will recover. Some will walk away. That’s fine. In pointing others to faith and recovery, we are obedient, and that is all we’re responsible for. In doing so, some will be saved. Some won’t. In obeying though, we act heroically, fulfilling our life mission.