Do you understand the gospel? I mean, really understand it. Do you understand who you are, where you came from, and all that Christ continually does on your behalf? If you do then it changes the way you handle difficult relationships. I have been guilty over the years of a sickly self-righteous indignation. I’ve learned so much as much time has passed since that day that my pharisee-ism hit me full force. Through the years it bothers me greatly to see so much wrong teaching and anti-biblical mentality running rampant when it comes to believers handling sin in others whether saved or unsaved.
Most would agree with me that God calls us to love seventy times seven. It may be hard and no fun sometimes, but easily seen from Scripture that it’s what we’re called to… Our mentor in this of how to handle the ugly in others is Christ… and he dealt with it by naming the sin and then dying for us. He didn’t raise the standard and expect us to learn to toe the line. He died. He died for us while we were in our rebellion. He kept loving and giving until he was put to death. I’ve probably got lots of amens from y’all so far. But we haven’t entered the temptation that comes when someone is being ugly toward you. Follow me…
Transfer this Scriptural principle of living the gospel out in all your relationships over to parenting your unsaved or rebellious adult child. When your child shows no love for the things of God and shuns righteousness is that your cue to ‘divorce’ them and not associate with them until they learn to act in a holy manner again? Give me one example of Jesus handling people in this way. Can you find even one? If I am to follow Christ’s example with those who act in opposition, I have to follow through with all I see from the life of Jesus and also what Paul states in Philippians 2. When did we Christians become so holy that we have the right to hold a standard for our friends and families to meet?! How can we tell someone they aren’t welcome in our presence anymore because they’re sinners….. just like us!?!
If you understand this gospel it changes how you handle marital conflict, too. I would never encourage/counsel a woman to divorce her husband for any reason. Leave his presence for safety reasons? Yes! Divorce and walk away from a relationship? That goes against all the gospel shouts out to us. God never calls us to make the judgement of whether someone is too much of a sinner to associate with, or too much of a lost cause to continue praying for and ministering to… that’s His domain (1Cor.4:5). And let’s not forget that I am NEVER without sin myself and so never justified in condemning another human being (James 3:9,10). When God NEVER divorces and gives up on me in my sin, how can I turn around and demand righteousness, as I see it, from the guy next to me?
Jesus knew Peter would mess up big time but told him with those hugely comforting words that he shouldn’t let it conquer him, and it didn’t change their relationship. It would actually make it stronger when Peter realized he was accepted even with his major guilt and shame before he ever repented of it (Luke 22:31!). Jesus said, “I have prayed for you.” You will still be welcome, Peter! You will fail miserably and show the kind of sin-stained wretch that you are, but I AM YOUR HOPE and I will NEVER give up on you!
Jesus told Judas to come eat with him and sat chatting and ministering to him all the while knowing he was a traitor. He washed his feet, he didn’t tell him to leave his presence until he could act in a more holy manner and truly repent.
If you have a difficult relationship right now ask yourself how you can play out the gospel in it. What would Jesus do if he had your husband, son, daughter, friend, sister or brother etc. If you think your place is to shun them to guilt them into obedience or not welcome them to your table to prove just how unholy they are you will have to do some major twisting of Scripture to show me that Jesus would do that as an example to us.
When it comes down to it most of the parenting guidance we hear these days leads me to see that most of us want our people around us to appear good and clean as if it’s a reflection of us when really we should be focused on Christ’s reflection in us and showing it to the world.
Don’t let Galatians 6:12-13 be your attitude.
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,”
You can sometimes guilt/ scare/manipulate a person into looking righteous and checking off the right boxes but it isn’t calling to their heart. It’s not ministering to them. Let your attitude be taken from Prov 9:3 – Be one of the maidens that wisdom has sent out to invite more and more sinners to the table that is spread and waiting for them. Call them to beauty with mercy and kindness on your lips and a towel and washbasin in your hand. Don’t chase them from behind with condemnation and a cattle prod.
Learning the reality of offering grace while calling sin sin is what we are called to. Jesus was the perfect example of being able to acknowledge the sin all around him while offering grace and mercy at the same time. Let’s strive to be more like Jesus!