How to respond to a believer engaging in immoral behavior?

immoral behaviorHow should we respond to our adult child who, though they professes Christ, has divorced their spouse and is now dating a person of the same-sex/gender? They received Christ as a young child and served our Lord for many years. As parents, we are heartbroken and struggling with how to respond Biblically. How do we be loving, while not approving of their actions/choices of immoral behavior?

We can all sympathize with you in your difficult situation. Your adult child’s actions raise doubts over the sincerity of their confession. While personal counseling services are not available or provided here, there is biblical instruction on these questions

First, your adult child’s poor choices do not necessarily invalidate their earlier confession. You may find the following article helpful: Can someone continue in sin and still be saved?

Even though their sin may lead you to doubt their faith, the Bible is clear that believers sometimes engage in severe sin even after calling upon the name of the Lord, and that God’s Word warns the believer to avoid such rebellion:

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NKJV)

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, (it’s impossible) to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Hebrews 10:26-27 (NKJV)

The Just Live by Faith

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

These warnings are spoken to believers concerning the dangers of living in rebellion (immoral behavior) to the Lord Who has saved them. If your adult child’s confession was genuine, then they are living in open disobedience to the Lord Who saved them. They are daring the Lord to discipline them, and if they are a child of God by faith then you can be sure discipline will come in some form:

Hebrews 12:5-11 (NKJV)

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening (discipline) of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening (discipline), God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening (discipline) seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The Lord disciplines His children to promote their righteousness, so if you believe your adult child is a believer, pray for the Lord to discipline them so they may repent of their sin and return to Him.

Meanwhile, the Bible also teaches that Christians may not associate with someone claiming faith but living in immoral behavior:

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NKJV)

Immorality Must Be Judged

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company (associate) with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named (so-called) a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

Paul says we may not associate with brothers and sisters living in immoral behavior, nor should we even eat with such a person. Paul calls these people named (“so-called”) brothers and sisters, because their extreme sin suggests they may not truly be saved. Nevertheless, we are to take them at their word, so when they don’t live according to that confession, we distance ourselves to avoid being caught in their sin. Paul’s instructions are more difficult to implement in cases of close family members, but nevertheless you should strive to live according to the spirit of Paul’s commands.  Therefore, as long as your adult child claims to be a Christian, you should limit your association with them, explaining that God’s Word requires this in the hope they might be moved to repentance. If they repent, receive them back.

On the other hand, if you doubt their (adult child’s) confession and believe them to be unsaved, then Paul says you may associate with them in the hope of witnessing Christ to them. Proclaim the gospel to them, reminding them of the penalty of sin, and asking them to repent and seek the salvation offered in Christ.

 

 

“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”

 

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