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A reader asks:

My twenty-something son has been married a couple of years.  Now he says he should have never married.  He failed to tell us of an affair he was having that started online. His Christian wife is devastated and tried to work to save her marriage but my son had no intentions of doing that.  We have counseled him and so have many other friends and family. He is planning on moving out any day now.  All of our hearts are broken.  My son is a Christian and he claims the other much younger girl is as well despite their adultery. How do I treat my unrepentant son?  I am very confused because the Bible does talk about not having anything to do with a sexually immoral and unrepentant Christian; am I supposed to shun my child?

How am I supposed to treat this other girl?  Should I allow her in my home, or him for that matter?  I feel like if I do then I am condoning what they have done by accepting them and I feel like I am betraying my daughter in-law. I know my son will suffer consequences from his actions and I am praying at some point for an awareness and repentance of what he has done, loving him is easy, but I do not like him right now so how do I act towards him?  Thank you and God Bless, Karen

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My Answer:

We have to be careful about assuming our kids are "Believers" (which is hard for parents) because we can point to some event or confession in their life. We are known by our FRUIT and I would err on the side of evidence and not give him the comfort and security of "I know you are saved but…"  Appropriate conviction, guilt and shamecome from pointing out to him that he is acting like someone who is lost. He should therefore be concerned about his salvation as well as "you reap what you sow" (the consequences).  You might approach him with "you CLAIM Christ but…."  

There will be those who tell you "just lov'em… just lov'em no matter what" which is code for avoiding condemnation, guilt or shame in light of God's Truth. This is false love devoid of reality and truth. True love never involves avoiding the confrontation and acknowledgment of sin. 

As for your son specifically, treat him as a sinning Believer because that is how he is acting (with the added admonition that he should consider if he is really saved at all). He's still your child. You love him but don't enable him. Be his mom but don't approve of his choices passively or specifically. You keep your arms and eyes open for the returning Prodigal but don't assuage his guilt or relieve his consequences in any way.  Guilt, shame and bitter harvest help lead the wayward to repentance. Don't rescue him, enable him or support him through his choices (even when it gets really painful to watch) while never withdrawing your love and readiness to forgive.

You need to have a separate, private talk with your daughter-in-law. Tell her you love her, support her, and do not condone what your son is doing. Remind her "he's my son and I can't change that, nor do I love him less but I'm on the side of Godliness and I will never stop loving you and caring for you in any way I can. Please don't alienate yourself from us because of him… you are still our family…"  Believe me, she NEEDS to hear that from you. 

Also, about "shunning" your son… it is the duty of the Church to exercise church discipline in cases like this (though it is rarely done which is why the Church is so morally weak; can you imagine a Joel Osteen type of church exercising church discipline when they publicly state God didn't call them to teach about sin?). Remember, the purpose of Church discipline is to RESTORE, not punish.  The final result is "putting out" the unrepentant member so they will feel the full weight of losing their fellowship in Christ – a willful choice of their sin over their Christianity.  So while yes, as a Christian you would have to treat him like any other disciplined Believer ("put out"), you would pray it was short term, and hopefully losing his parents and family for a while would provide him even greater motivation to repent.  Difficult I know… but your clear duty is to God first, not your son regardless of how difficult that is.

And, as for the other girlfriend, you do not be unkind to her… she is an unbeliever (or acting like one) in willful sin. You show love and compassion but no compromise on the truth of the situation. Don't do anything to facilitate or enable their relationship, and firmly, with love, at the appropriate times, you let them know: unacceptable!  Witness to her, pray for her and long for her salvation… but don't pretend like this situation is anything other than what it is: ADULTERY.

It's hard when we reach a point of genuinely not liking one of our own kids but it's a common occurrence many endure. Love them. Pray for them. Set an example for them. Be ready to accept them when they repent (which means doing the right thing too, not just being sorry). But don't do anything passively or directly to condone, approve, encourage or enable their sinful choices.

Kids… can't live without them, can't kill them.  It's a real dilemma… 🙂