THE TAKE AWAY
How to Show Love...
To Someone in Sin
By Kersley Fitzgerald
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Continued from Page One
It's important to mourn the sin and the pain, but also the break in the relationship. One of the most poignant scenes in The Return of the King, the third installment of The Lord of the Rings, is when Frodo lies deathlike after being stung by the giant spider Shelob. Sam leans over him and cries, "Don't leave me here alone! It's your Sam calling. Don't go where I can't follow! Wake up!"
For several years, Dev's co-worker has been angry. His sister started smoking medical marijuana for anxiety a couple of years ago. He felt she should at least go to counseling to address the core issues that caused the anxiety in the first place. His parents agreed, but they wanted their daughter to know they supported her, so they didn't push it. Her smoking increased to the point that she lost her job, and now our friend suspects she's moved on to harder drugs. Afraid of losing their daughter, his parents say nothing, but he can't stand by and watch. He feels the split between himself and his family keeps growing wider and wider.
He can't follow. He can't pretend that everything is fine. He's confronted and he's mourned, but he's reached his breaking-point. His interaction with his sister is no longer edifying to either of them, and he needs to step back before he causes more damage.
The Bible talks about grieving the Holy Spirit, excommunication, and God removing His hand of protection (Isaiah 8:6-10). Our friend feels the need to separate to protect his own heart, but also because he has nothing more to add. When someone's in trouble, God puts people into their lives to give them what they need. But those relationships are often only for a season and a purpose. It's not uncommon for someone in pain to watch a once-supportive friend walk away and feel abandoned. But often it's because that friend's job is done, and another counselor is on the horizon. Even parents may have to cut off contact for a while so another with a different voice can give the same message in new words. A voice with less history and baggage, maybe.
But even that new voice may only be there for a season.
The fallen world causes us to act in fallen ways that lead to pain and separation. This cycle of friendship-breaking sin isn't original — it's God's story with humanity. He lovingly confronts us, supports us, mourns us when we fail to repent, and finally leaves us to our own devices. We can't ask any more of ourselves.
If, by the grace of God, our beloved sinner repents and asks for forgiveness, the answer is easy. Forgive. Restore the relationship as far as it is up to us. Galatians 6:1 gives the hope that restoration can happen directly after the confrontation, and sometimes it does. But sometimes the prodigal friend needs time to discover how far into sin they've fallen before they ask for a hand up. Paul saw this in Corinth and urged the church there to restore the repentant brother to full fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). He understood that the point of confrontation, mourning, and abandonment was to thwart Satan's evil plan in the person's life, and nothing does that better than restoration. To reject restoration would be a cruelty God didn't intent.
I've been on the fringes of such stories — a pastor who, when confronted with his sin submitted to church discipline and won forgiveness from his wife; a young woman who was raised in a dangerous quiverfull cult and accepted her parents' sincere apologies. A friend whose brother left a life of drugs and returned to Christ. But, sadly, it's a rare thing. The rarity doesn't absolve us of loving sinners. It just means we'll have to lean on God's strength and guidance more.
Of course, none of this is really possible without God's strength and guidance. It's where the entire idea came from. He created love, and all true love comes from Him. We can't love properly without tapping into His love. And it helps to remember that He loves the sinner even more than we do. That's why He set the example on how to love them (1 John 4:7).
Image Credit: Coast Guard News; "4 people rescued by Coast Guard"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth Christian-Life Hardships Personal-Relationships Sin-Evil
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