When a family member professes to be a Christian and refuses to repent of known sin, other believing family members must continue to urge them to stop. The goal in the conflict remains repentance for the sinner, reconciliation with God and man, and restoration to the fellowship of the church and the family.

Sometimes those unrepentant loved ones refuse to cooperate, unfortunately, and this puts the believing family members in a very difficult position. There are earthly families, and there is the family of God, and I believe that the family of God must take preeminence over earthly family. Believers are told to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ no less than 13 times in the New Testament, which is the enduring relationship God gives His children. Therefore, believers must continue to press on out of love for the person and reverence for Christ.

We have been using the situation of “Pat” and “Dan” to illustrate our case. Pat, a believing woman, has entered into a relationship with Dan, who is an unbeliever. Despite all the warnings, pleadings, and revelations from Scripture and believing friends, Pat has decided that she doesn’t believe the Bible means what it says in this case. She maintains she is a believer, but thinks that her friends are taking the Bible too literally. She believes her relationship with Dan is ok, because she is happy and he is happy. They are now planning to get married, and Pat has moved in with Dan to save money.

In one final attempt, Pat’s believing friends approach her and warn her with what Scripture has to say about living in sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). They warn her about being yoked with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14). Yet, they become confident that there is nothing more they can say, and Pat has truly rejected their counsel. This leads the friends to take a further step.

In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NASB)

The next step is especially necessary when it involves a kind of sexual sin. While all sin is serious and an affront to God, there appears to be a special emphasis placed on sexual sin in Scripture because of the intimate nature of marriage and how the Church is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33)

At this point, Pat’s friends must turn her over. Let her go. Take their hands off of her life and allow her to go down the path of destruction she has chosen for herself. This step is not out of anger or revenge, but it is simply a step of obedience in light of the pattern set out in the Scriptures.

This step looks like breaking off all social connection and using each encounter as an opportunity to continue to urge Pat to repent. There will not be casual conversations, lunch dates, or rescuing. Pat’s friends must allow her to experience the full weight of the sinful life she has chosen, all the while praying for her, and asking God to grant her the gift of repentance and reconciliation. This is a very hard thing to do, and if this is a step you ever have to take in life, you will soon realize how your own faith and trust will grow in the process.

Pat may or may not repent, and she may indeed marry the unbeliever which would lead to reaping a harvest of misery as a result. The ministry of prayer and urging her to repent is the best ministry her friend’s can have at the moment. When we commit to reminding our loved ones who have strayed of the love of God and His willingness to reconcile them to Himself upon their repentance, we exemplify the truth of the Gospel and grow in our own obedience to God’s Word.