What’s my responsibility when I hear a fellow believer is having premarital sex?
I have a friend who is in my Bible study. Her roommate, also in our Bible study, is a new Christian, which is awesome. In addition to being in our study, she recently led a missions trip overseas. But also, she has a new boyfriend whom she apparently is sleeping with. My friend knows this only because they are roommates. I know this only because my friend told me.
My question is this: What, if anything, am I obligated to do? I have encouraged my friend to talk to the church’s leaders. She has chosen not to do that. Should I do nothing and just keep praying for her roommate?
Before thinking tactically: What should I do? Make sure you’re thinking biblically: What about this situation is wrong? What surprised me most about your question is not that a new Christian is sleeping with her boyfriend — unfortunately that’s not unheard of in our culture — what surprised me most is that she’s leading a missions trip. Placing someone in leadership means setting them up as a role model. This is why it’s premature to elevate a new believer to leadership. I said her sexual sin didn’t surprise me, not that it’s OK. But that’s what this leadership role could do. As the leader, she’s the one the other church members on the trip will look to for guidance, not just in the logistics of the trip, but in things spiritual and practical. If they find out about her actions with her boyfriend, they may think, She’s the one our church elders (or pastor) chose as leader; she’s our role model — either they don’t know, or it must be OK.
With someone newly saved, it’s probable that there’s much about her life and lifestyle that they don’t yet know. It takes time to get to know someone. And it takes even more time to help someone grow in godliness. This is why the New Testament gives practical qualifications for leadership. It’s not enough that someone be zealous about their new-found faith, eager for the salvation of unbelievers in foreign countries and willing to do the hard and often dirty work of taking the Gospel to unreached peoples. Leaders must be qualified to lead. And in areas of church leadership, sexual purity and fidelity are essential.
New believers need time — and study and discipling — to grow in their faith and spiritual maturity. What it means to live the Christian life must be learned. Some of what God requires of Christians can be picked up quickly in the context of a church body. But salvation — the moment Christ saves you from being dead in your sins and brings you back to life — is not sanctification. Sanctification is the process of growing to be more like Christ. That goes on for the rest of our lives, “until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:4-6). This area of sexual sin is an example of an area in a new believer’s life in need of sanctification. In another day, most people knew sex outside of marriage was wrong, and most lived by that conviction. But for many who come to faith as adults in our sex-obsessed culture, this isn’t obvious. Maybe she’s not aware that God reserves sex for husband and wife.
This is where God’s Word, biblical teaching and the body of Christ come in. New believers, like all of us, need to read and study the Bible to know what it says and begin doing what it commands. This must be done alongside the teaching and modeling of a godly pastor in the context of a church body that is striving to be more like Christ. Being like Christ must be pursued, and taught, with intentionality. This is why discipleship is vital. And discipleship is meant to be lived out in the church.
And so this brings us back to your question: As a fellow believer, given what you’ve been told, what, if anything, should you do? You asked, “Should I do nothing and just keep praying?” First, let me encourage you that just praying is not nothing. It’s a huge something (2 Thessalonians 1:2-4). The best outcome of this situation would be for the Holy Spirit to convict this woman of her sexual sin and lead her to repentance, which includes turning away from it and living chastely. Ideally that conviction would grow out of love for her Savior and a deepening understanding of what it means to live as a Christian, including a desire to glorify God by obeying Him (John 14:23-25). It is good and necessary that you pray for her, and keep praying.
Is that all you must do? As a sister in Christ, and especially if you are both members of the same church, your responsibilities go further. Consider Galatians 5:13–6:10,
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
As you can see, the biblical way of relating to another person is utterly foreign to our fleshly way of relating to one another. It’s not enough to read this passage, we should meditate on it because what it requires of us is difficult. You must approach her humbly and in love. Before you bring this up, you must check your own motives for envy and pride. You must speak to her gently, watching that you don’t give in to the same sin. She is sowing seeds of sin which can’t help but reap a harvest of destruction and this should grieve you. And so, as you have opportunity, you should do the good of restoring her gently by the power of the Spirit. This is a tall order, indeed, but it is what we are called to as believers in Christ.
But the “her” I’m speaking of here — the woman you should talk to — is not the roommate who may be sleeping with her boyfriend. The one you must speak to first is the friend who has gossiped. She is the one you should restore gently. And maybe, hopefully, she will realize this is the same way she should approach her roommate’s sin. If you are faithful in this, God may give you opportunity to also talk with the other woman about her sin. But you should do so when she reveals that to you herself, in the context of a growing relationship, not on the basis of hearsay.
I pray that you’ll have the wisdom and courage to obey Hebrews 3:12-14:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
By His grace,
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.