QUESTION: Your response to the question of deliberate sin in the 2013 Sept/Oct Lutheran Sentinel really hit home. My adult child is willingly committing this sin. My question is how do I live my life and have a relationship with her knowing that she practices ways of the world? How do I calm my soul, spirit and mind and bring peace so I can live out my days rejoicing in the crown of life I will receive?
ANSWER: Jesus told us to take up our cross as we follow Him. If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24, see also Matthew 10:38). By His cross, Jesus paid the debt each sinner owed to the Holy Trinity. He took all our sins as if they were His and died our death. In exchange, He gave us His holiness by which God will judge us. God proclaimed a world of sinners to be not guilty. By true repentance we are God’s holy people.
Not all repent and believe. Jesus sorrows for those who refuse or turn their backs on His love, who do not repent. It is His will that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
This is our cross. God commands us to love all people. We sorrow that so many reject the only Savior and the eternal life He earned. We will especially sorrow when those we raised in the faith live in unrepentant sin. Christians shed many tears for those they love longing for their repentance. This writer has felt this sorrow too and is most sympathetic.
We especially love our children. As you did, Christians do what we can to raise them in the truth of God’s love in Christ. We cling to the promise of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Jesus loved us when we were not loveable. His love does not ignore our sin. It cost Him His life. He calls us to repentance by means of His Word. As a faithful believer, you have made God’s Law clear to your child. God’s Law is working on her heart. You have also made clear to her the good news of God’s mercy. We find comfort that the Holy Spirit moves souls to repentance by means of God’s Word and Sacraments. It is not in our power, apart from the word, to change hearts. We must resist the temptation to overuse God’s Law as if we can force someone to repentance. We must leave that in the care of the One who loves us.
Jesus loves us with patience. We trust God’s grace for ourselves. We trust God’s grace for those we love, even the unrepentant. With regular prayer, we place their souls before the throne of grace, imploring our great Intercessor to plead on our behalf. Christian love will dominate our interactions with the impenitent. We could wish they repent now, but it may take time. With patience, we continue to trust that God will hear our supplications.
In some drastic cases, love might move us to avoid the sinner. A family enduring the persistent disruption of an alcoholic might well avoid that soul, for his sake, to demonstrate how serious unrepentant sin is. When we exercise this strong love, we will need to remember that when the soul repents, we must treat them as holy and forgiven.
God is always in control. His will shall be done. He wills that all repent and come to faith. Live your life with confidence that God will answer your prayers. In the parable, the father of the prodigal waited patiently. When his son returned, the angels in heaven joined him as they celebrated a lost soul who was found. Thanks be to God.
Rev. Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL