What is the appropriate level of fellowship with a childhood friend, who grew up in the church and responded to the gospel, but is now living in a sexually immoral lifestyle? The individual and their partner now parent a young child while going to a different church. They desire a deeper relationship with me and my family, but also want acceptance of their family and lifestyle. Where are the areas of love, grace, and truth?
I believe the first thing to address as an important piece to this question is what is meant by the expressions – love, grace, and truth.
Truth is the divine standard that God has set whereby things are measured. When the Lord Jesus was here, He declared Himself as the Truth (Jn. 14:6). Truth is in contrast to a lie, so God and His Word stand in opposition to any concept and any behavior that is contrary to the truth. As a result, truth must be maintained at all cost.
Then there is love, which the scriptures declare “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8), and that, above all, we are to have fervent love among the saints (the christian company). Love, that tender affectionate response to the one who is its object and subject, is not intended to displace what truth or righteousness stands for. We do not sacrifice truth on the altar of love hoping to win people by doing so, because that incurs compromise which alters the truth as the standard. Yet, there is that which Paul declares to the Ephesians – holding the truth in love, we grow up to Him in all things (Eph. 4:15). This shows us that we do not just set truth forward as a dogma in a legalistic way, but it must be couched in the affections of love towards one another.
Grace sets out the thought of favor which meets man at his greatest need. That’s how God has moved towards man, and it is incumbent on us to display this quality of grace.
Having an understanding of those three qualities—truth, love and grace—we can now respond more appropriately to the questioner.
Certainly, we love to do all that is in our power to maintain formed connections and relations even from childhood. As one who has responded to the gospel and hopefully made a commitment to Christ, His word shows us that any sexual immorality is incongruent with the divine standards and must be held as such. Paul wrote to the Corinthians reminding them of a character of behavior that was once theirs away from Christ, but they were now washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Cor. 6:9–11, 17–20).
Wanting a relationship requires having things in common which we can enjoy and share together equally. If this is not present it will be difficult to continue in such a relationship because compromise has become the governing value. A believer will not feel at home with someone who, in practice, violates the principles of God’s word.
“Parenting a young child” – This brings into question the matter of influence which is an essential commodity in raising a child. We do this via our words, our lives, and the things we practice. As a result, if the gravity of sinful practices become part of the child’s upbringing, it will only perpetuate dysfunctional patterns in the life of that child to his or her detriment.
We should linger prayerfully, patiently with those ensnared in sexual immorality, trusting the Lord to work in the heart and recover them for His glory.