As Christians, we are required to teach salvation and help to bring sinners to repentance through the Bible, which is the inspired Word of God. “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (II Timothy 3:16). It is a wonderful feeling to see unbelievers repent and become baptized, and to know that you helped them reach this wonderful goal.
Even the smallest of gestures can have a profound effect on someone, and make them realize that they need to become a Christian. Just recently, my husband and I delivered a fruit basket to a man who had just been diagnosed with cancer. We knew that this man was not a Christian, so we made a point to talk with him about becoming a Christian when we delivered his fruit basket. A few days later, a fellow preacher, called my husband and told him that my husband had really impressed the man that we had talked to about his salvation, and the man was asking the preacher, who worked with the man, various questions about the Bible. The following Wednesday night, this man showed up at our congregation for Bible study, and was baptized the week after that. He still attends with our congregation, and since his baptism, he has been doing so well with his chemotherapy treatments, that his doctors are amazed! This example shows that something as simple as giving a fruit basket to someone can help lead them to Christ!
But what happens when that Christian falls away from God? We are to go to that person and try to get them to repent. Galatians 6:1 reads, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Once we go to the erring Christian and teach them the reason why they need to repent, it is a joyous occasion indeed when that person turns back to God. Just like the example of the fruit basket, it sometimes does not take much for a person to repent of their sinful ways. However, this is not always the case, and we can see this in the book of Lamentations.
To backtrack a little, in the book of Jeremiah, the prophet of the same name had been prophesying to the children of Israel for forty years. God came to Jeremiah with His message to the Israelites when Jeremiah was only a child (Jeremiah 1:6).  God tells Jeremiah about His Plan to punish Israel for their wickedness, and encourages Jeremiah to deliver this message to the Israelites, even though they will not listen.
“Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. Judah. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.” (Jeremiah 1:14 19).
Jeremiah pleaded with the Israelites to turn away from idolatry and to change their wicked ways, but they would not listen. The Israelites, namely the inhabitants of Judah which consisted of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, had been spiritually decaying for many years since the ten tribes of Israel was destroyed by Assyria in 750 B.C. Although there was a small resurgence of righteous behavior under the rule of King Josiah, this did not last. Finally, it was time for God to punish His children for their wrongdoing, which they continued to do despite Jeremiah’s warnings.
In around 600 BC, God used King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, to punish the Israelites by looting the temple, stealing the gold, and putting many Israelites in captivity. Those Israelites who remained in the city were ruled by King Zedekiah who was just as wicked as Nebuchadnezzar. The Israelites who were ruled under Zedekiah faced severe famine and poverty (II Kings 24:10-20).
A few years later, King Zedekiah rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar came back and besieged Jerusalem for 18 months. During this time, people were murdered by the Babylonians, and the house of God was destroyed, the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and all of the palaces were burned to the ground (II Chronicles 36:17-21). Jeremiah witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Israelites by the Babylonians, and the book of Lamentations is full of Jeremiah’s sorrow for the plight of the Hebrew people, as well as the sorrow that the Hebrew people felt being in captivity.
When a Christian falls from grace, he or she may face punishment for their sins in this life, as well as the next life. I know from my experiences as a counselor, that many people who commit wrongdoings have many challenges in their lives that they would not be facing otherwise, and they deal with a lot of sorrow and sadness because of this. The same situation, although to a much greater extent than I have seen, happened to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. Once a great nation of God’s People, the book of Lamentations shows the Israelites as a broken people, who now see the error of their sinful ways.
“The LORD is righteous; for I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity. I called for my lovers, but they deceived me: my priests and mine elders gave up the ghost in the city, while they sought their meat to relieve their souls." Behold, O LORD; for I am in distress: my bowels are troubled; mine heart is turned within me; for I have grievously rebelled: abroad the sword bereaveth, at home there is as death. They have heard that I sigh: there is none to comfort me: all mine enemies have heard of my trouble; they are glad that thou hast done it: thou wilt bring the day that thou hast called, and they shall be like unto me. Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: for my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.” (Lamentations 1:18-22).
Jeremiah, who has remained faithful throughout his life, is also facing persecution; however, he has hope in God to deliver him. “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24). The other Israelites, however, finally see the need to repent of their ways, and finally do so in Lamentations chapter 5. “Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old” (Lamentation 5:21).
Sometimes it takes a major event to “wake up” a Christian to repentance. Christians who fall astray can be dealt with more firmly than with unbelievers because Christians know better than to commit sin. Hopefully an erring Christian will repent before they have to face punishment of any sort, but it is especially important that they repent before they face eternal punishment. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). A Christian has too much to lose, even more than the Israelites lost during their captivity, to risk dying in sin or being in sin when the day of Judgment comes.
We must be like the prophet Jeremiah, and continue to teach those Christians who are in sin, no matter how many times we are rejected. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). We must do this in hopes that they will repent before it is too late. “For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). By helping others reach the goal of Heaven, we are also helping ourselves reach that goal.
We must be persistent like the prophet Jeremiah, and hope that our persistence pays off. If a person who is an erring Christian does not listen to your pleas for repentance the first, time, go to them again, and again when necessary. Sometimes it takes several visits with a person before they are willing to change. May we work every to help others and help ourselves be more and more like Christ each and every day!