By Randy Alcorn; February 1, 2016 blog at:
(…continued) Many years ago my wife and I were in a home Bible study in our church. The group had been meeting three months when someone mentioned in passing that one of the couples wasn’t married. I called the group leader and asked if this was true. He said yes. I asked if he had told the young man— who’d come to Christ at least two years earlier— that this wasn’t honoring to the Lord. He said he hadn’t mentioned it because he didn’t want to hurt them. He hoped eventually they would figure it out, but it was the group’s job to love them, not judge them. I said I agreed we should love them. And when you love someone, you don’t want them to sin, because sin is never in their best interests. Sin brings judgment, and we do not want those we love to fall under the judgment of God, but rather to embrace the forgiving grace He went to the cross to offer them.
I explained that now that I knew about this, I would need to go to the young man and share with him the truth. The leader and another guy from the group came with me that night. We called the young man and invited ourselves over, and while his girlfriend and the baby were with one of the ladies in the group, we sat down with him in his living room. He was nervous. It wasn’t comfortable for any of us. What’s right often isn’t.
I asked him if he knew how much we loved him and his girlfriend. He said, “Sure.” Our group had helped them out in various ways. He knew.
I told him I wanted to share some Scripture with him. Then he looked at me and said, “Are you going to tell us we should get married?”
I said, “Yes.”
The words poured out from him. He said, “We really want to. We feel so bad we haven’t. We’re trying to read the Bible and we feel like we’re just a couple of losers. When we go to church, we feel like hypocrites. But we don’t have the money to have a decent wedding, and I can’t afford a ring. She’s so ashamed that we’re not married. It’s awkward because of our baby. And to be honest, I wondered if anyone was ever going to talk to us about it.”
We put our arms around this brother and challenged him to be a real man, God’s man, and honor Jesus and lead his girlfriend, and make this right. He prayed and asked God’s forgiveness for having sex outside of marriage. A burden was lifted from him. Together, we developed a plan for how they could move out from each other just for a few weeks until we could get them married. We laughed and hugged and this brother felt loved and incredibly relieved. Instead of being shamed, which was the leader’s fear, he had his shame removed.
Our small group immediately set up a wedding at our church. On short notice, the women in the group got the girlfriend a dress and everything else, and we found people at church to volunteer food and a cake. Their parents flew in from other parts of the country and everyone cried and celebrated. I had the honor of marrying this couple, and holding their precious baby in the ceremony. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been part of. I cannot tell you how honored and special this couple felt. God’s people had loved them by helping deliver them from the sin and guilt that entangled them, and bring them to purity and peace.
The sheer joy of that young couple floods my mind when I hear people talk as if they are taking the spiritual high ground by “not laying a guilt trip on Christians who are living together.” We can gently point out sin to each other without using a flame-thrower. God tells us to speak the truth in love, and if we are withholding the truth instead of speaking it, we are not being obedient or loving.
If you love someone who says they want to follow Jesus, you don’t ignore sin that is destroying their lives. You go to them humbly and prayerfully, and represent Jesus and help them fulfill their stated goal of honoring Christ as Lord. God calls us to bring love and grace and liberation to those whose sin is destroying them.
Of course, exactly the same applies to other sins, including gossip and gluttony and slander and envy and sowing discord among brothers.
Ephesians 4:15 — Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4:25 — Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Matthew 19:4b-6 — (Jesus said), “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Open my eyes that I may see,
Incline my heart that I may desire,
Order my steps that I may follow
The way of your commandments.
–Lancelot Andrewes, Anglican Bishop and Bible translator (1555-1626)