I was eighteen years old when I planned my first youth trip as a leader. I was the summer youth minister for a little church on the Texas coast and I was taking our youth group to Schlitterbaun Water Parks in New Braunfels. I was just beginning to drive long distance trips on my own, but here I was with a car full of youth, leading a caravan to a place I had never been. I had printed out directions but between not knowing where I was going and being distracted by all of the kids in my car, I ended up missing a major turn. Fortunately, our pastor was driving the car behind me and he pulled up beside me, got my attention, and we turned around and headed the right direction. Then I missed another turn. After the third missed turn, the pastor took the lead. I was a little embarrassed. No, I was a lot embarrassed. But, in the end, I was glad that he stopped me and turned me back in the right direction because I wanted to get to Schlitterbaun, not end up in Dallas. I've since gotten much better at driving long distances and making all of my own turns.
After all of the practical advice for Christian living that the book of James contains, it ends with the following verses: My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (James 5:19-20, NLT). In my experience, one of the greatest deterrents to pointing out when people have wandered away from the truth and into sin is the idea that we will embarrass them or hurt their feelings. This fear is a well-founded fear because nearly everyone gets embarrassed when their mistakes and bad choices are called to light. But letting them continue to wander can lead to far more devastating consequences.
I was embarrassed when that pastor stopped me and turned me around, but I was embarrassed because I was at fault. Ultimately, however, I would much rather have been embarrassed right then than discover my mistake an hour down the road or, even worse, when I was completely lost. But all that trip would have cost me would be a bunch of disappointed kids, angry parents, and a loss of trust. Wandering away from the truth can lead to life-shattering consequences and, just as I was ultimately glad that pastor embarrassed me and turned me around, I would want someone to turn me around if I was wandering away from the truth and off into sin. I would want that person to turn me around gently and kindly, but I would want to be turned around.
If we truly care about someone, we won't simply let them wander away from the truth - we won't let them end up in a place they would never have wanted to go without at least trying to warn them and turn them around. Yes, they might be embarrassed or get their feelings hurt. But that is a small price to pay for saving them from tragic consequences.