Helping a Wayward Brother

Helping a Wayward Brother

Jude 22-23

“And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”

When a brother or sister is falling away, we all want to help them come back to the faith. In one sentence of his short letter, Jude gives three instructions for three different situations to help a wayward brother or sister.

Have Mercy On Those Who Are Doubting

The first instruction for addressing a wayward brother is to show mercy. The type of person that we are supposed to show mercy toward is someone who is doubting. Why would someone who is doubting their faith be the one to require mercy? Look at how our Lord treated people who had doubt. In Mark 9, the father of the boy with the unclean spirit cries out, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9.24). Just before this famous request he says, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9.22). Jesus sees the father and his son are in need of mercy. He shows mercy and casts out the unclean spirit. This gives the boy new life, and certainly erases the unbelief of the father. Jesus showed mercy to those who were doubting, even as He was physically present with them. We should most certainly show mercy on those who face doubts today.

Save By Snatching

There are others who are to be saved by snatching them out of the fire. As opposed to the third instruction, saving others by snatching them out of the fire does not mention fear. This  reminds me of a firefighter saving someone from a burning building. Although the fire creates a dangerous situation, the firefighter is properly equipped with gear and an oxygen mask, so he is able to snatch the person out of the fire. Snatching someone from the fire can be done when we can reach someone while keeping ourselves safe. Although this person is in imminent danger if he or she does not change something soon, the brother or sister can still be reached without putting others in physical or spiritual danger. If you are equipped to help someone that is within your reach, you should always take the opportunity to snatch that person out of the fire.

Have Mercy With Fear

The third instruction emphasizes the danger of sin. Although we would love to be the 

heroic firefighter snatching people from fires in every situation, there are some situations where even the best firefighter with the best equipment should be fearful for his own well-being. This third instruction tells us there are situations where we need to have mercy with fear. In other words, the wayward brother has put himself in such a dangerous position that anyone who attempts to help should have fear for himself. Jude says that this mercy with fear should lead us to hate even the person’s garment that has been polluted. As harsh as that seems, mercy can still be shown from a distance. We need to keep ourselves safe from sin and its effects, but that does not mean that we should not show mercy to the wayward brother. An effective way to show mercy with fear is through our prayer lives. When someone has gone wayward in such a way that you cannot even be near them and remain safe, pray for that person that they may receive mercy. Keeping this person in our prayers is perhaps the most merciful thing we can do. The brother or sister may appear to be a lost cause by physical appearance, but we can never know where that person’s heart is. Pray for that person’s heart to be turned to God and His mercy. 

Whenever a brother or sister is falling away, there is something we can be doing for that person. Whether that is showing mercy to someone who is doubting, snatching others out of the fire, or showing mercy with fear, we should be doing something to help our wayward brother.

Will Speer