My son has had an affair with the same woman on two occasions now and has told my daughter-in-law he wants a divorce. For the first time in my Christian life, I am having trouble with forgiveness. My son is ruining the lives of my daughter-in-law and my two granddaughters. He has no regard for their happiness (not to mention the hurt my husband and I feel). Am I to act as though nothing is wrong? To accept this in
There are two issues here. The first is that of confronting him about his sin and the second is forgiveness.
When we discover that another Christian has an ongoing pattern of sin, we have an obligation and a responsibility before the Lord to encourage the person to stop. This is not something people like to do. Some people believe that this is not biblical. But there are several examples throughout the Bible where godly men have approached others who were guilty of sinning because they had not repented and were continuing in their sin. The first example is King David who was rebuked by the prophet Nathan because David had committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:1-7). Another example is the Apostle Paul who rebuked the apostle Peter because he would not eat with Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-14). The third example occurred in the Corinthian church. Here the apostle Paul rebuked those in the Corinthian church because they did not care enough for a sinning mother and son to go to them and lovingly encourage them to stop sinning (1 Cor. 2:1-13). The last example is from 1 Timothy 1:19-20 where we discover that Paul had disciplined two men who were guilty of blaspheming God. Proverbs 27:6 provides a basic principle. The verse tells us that the wounds of a friend are faithful. That is, faithful friends will rebuke one another when one of them is in sin.
God even provides guidelines for approaching a sinning Christian. Ephesians 4:15 tells us that when we rebuke another we need to speak the truth in love, and Galatians 6:1 tells us that we need to go to him or her in a spirit of humility, gentleness, and grace – not anger and hurt – and encourage him/her to stop committing the sin. Here is the passage in Galatians.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (NASB) Gal. 6:1-2
The English phrase “caught in any trespass” has the idea of someone who is trapped in sin.” This is the meaning in the Greek. The person can be trapped by a single sin or by a pattern of sin. Single sins can include divorce, murder, sexual sin, or theft, for example. Patterns of sin can include: anger, drunkenness, abusive speech, or immorality. There are other sins that we need to be concerned about as well. We must never assume that we understand everything we see or hear (John 7:51).
Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it? (NASB) John 7:51
It is important to notice that Jesus never said that we cannot judge or evaluate the life of another person. Matthew 7:1-6 is often taught incorrectly and twisted to make it sound as if Jesus said that we cannot judge another person. What Jesus condemned was gossip, slander and unfair and unbalanced evaluations. In fact, Jesus said that all judgment must be done righteously. Here is Jesus’ statement.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. (NASB) John 7:24
Further in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus provided us with some guidelines we should follow when approaching a Christian who is thinking about or has committed a significant sin, or has a pattern of sin. First, we must have been an eye witness of the sin or have first hand knowledge, and we must go to him or her in private (Matt. 18:15). God tells us to go to the person in private. Therefore, that is the standard. If the person does respond to the loving and gentle encouragement, sometimes a rebuke (Prov. 27:6), with sorrow or turns away from the sin, then we have rescued him or her from the sin. But if he or she rejects the encouragement, then we go to the second step.
The second step requires that two or three people go together and encourage him or her to stop sinning (Matt. 18:16). If the person responds with sorrow or decides to turn away from the sin, then we have rescued him or her. But if he or she is stubborn and wants to continue sinning, then we must inform the elders of the church about the situation and let them become involved.
The third step is to inform the elders if he or she does not respond with sorrow and a decision to stop sinning (Matt. 18:17). The two or three witnesses now satisfy Jesus’ requirement in John 8:17. Then the church leadership has the responsibility to follow through. Unfortunately, some churches do not practice Matthew 18. This is usually called church discipline. The church leaders have the responsibility to eventually remove the person from the congregation if he or she does not respond in sorrow and stop (Matt. 18:17). This is called repenting.
Our goal is to encourage them and not to condemn them. Our goal is to motivate them to stop sinning and to please the Lord. By taking these actions, we have pleased the Lord.
How should we respond to a sinning Christian? The answer is provided in a discussion that occurred between Jesus and Peter after Jesus’ explanation about church discipline ( Matthew 18). The discussion started when Peter asked the following question.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (NASB) Matthew 18:21-22
It is possible that Peter thought he was being generous in offering to forgive seven times. If so, Jesus surprised him when He said seventy times seven. Peter did not ask how to forgive but how often. Jesus did not discuss methods designed to help us forgive another person. No, Jesus told Peter to forgive. Jesus did not talk about emotions or feelings. He just said, “Forgive . . .” Forgive is a decision or act of our will. It is a choice. We decide intellectually to forgive. When we do, we logically purpose to never seek revenge or get even. We decide to be helpful and loving towards that person, and not to be controlled by our emotions. Then later when our emotions naturally respond because we were hurt, we need to perform a loving act.
Forgiveness is a decision and not an emotion. Sometimes the negative emotion remains. I have found that by confessing my own lack of forgiveness, my emotions will improve. Then I can seek to help the person by following Eph. 4:15, Galatians 6:1-2 and Matthew 18:15-17. May the Lord use you to rescue your son, his wife, and their children. He may not realize that statistics reveal that only three percent of couples involved in extra-marital affairs get married and seventy-five percent of those eventually end in divorce.
“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (NASB) Mal. 2:16
Pray for him.
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