This weekend I saw someone at church I hadn’t seen in a long time. As soon as we had a chance to greet one another, I made a bee line to him to say hi and give him a hug. He was obviously uncomfortable and a little shy of looking anyone in the eyes, but he hugged me back as others made their way to him as well.
When I got back to my seat, I heard this in my spirit: home from war.
I immediately thought of a soldier who had been on the battlefields of the world and the reception they receive upon returning home. They are embraced and celebrated. But this isn’t so for someone who has been on the front lines of the real world–especially if their own choices put them there. But I want to challenge that thinking among Christians today.
“As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions… Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon and despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God [acknowledge Him to His honor and to His praise]. And so each of us shall give an account of himself to God. Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:1,10-13, Amplified).
The more we understand that the whole world is under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19), the happier we will be when we see one return to base (the church). We should be celebrating their return! Not watching to see “how long it’ll last this time…” When you think about the bravery it takes for a brother or sister who’ve fallen into sin and various traps of the enemy, for them to even step back into church is a huge step of courage. I hate to even admit it, but know it to be so. They are ashamed of their past and scared of failing again. In their mind, it’s easier to stay away–and in many cases, staying away keeps judgmental eyes off of them.
BUT… if we, as the church, would change how we see a fallen brother or sister and receive them as one home from war, how much more equipped would they be to stay the course?
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’ That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. ‘I took on the troubles of the troubled,’ is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of His steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever He will do next… So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!” (Romans 15:1-7, Message).
The world is a messy place. And every bit of it is influenced by Satan himself. [Tweet “When one returns to God, we need to see them as one home from war (no matter how they got there).”]
I pray we will all be ready to receive those who are coming home.