How do you respond when introduced to someone clearly living in a sinful relationship?



I appreciate the scriptural information you share on your site and have a question.

What is the best way to respond when introduced to someone who is clearly in a sinful relationship? For example, you run into two ladies at the store, one of whom you know as she works at the same company as a relative of yours. You stop in the store to say hello and she introduces the lady she's with as her "wife." This situation could just as easily be a man and a woman introducing the other as his or her "partner." The relationships are obviously celebrated in the world today and just as obviously sinful.

My first thought is that I should be gracious, say hello, and look for an opportunity to discuss God's word in a more private setting with the person I'm acquainted with. But is this appropriate and am I just trying to postpone a difficult conversation? My goal here is leading a person away from sin to Christ and not to embarrass them publicly, but I don't want to convey acceptance of the sin either. If the sin were different, say the person introduced her friend Bob and said they had just robbed the bank down the road, I would not have a problem speaking up about it being a sin at that moment. Should the sinful relationship be handled differently? If I try to picture Jesus in the same situation, I see him addressing the matter in some way at the time, but not unkindly.

Hope this makes sense and thank you for the work you do.


If a person tells you he just robbed a bank, both you and the person telling you this clearly understand that what was done was sinful and a violation of secular laws. Because the person already accepts that it is wrong, even if they try to justify it, they will not be surprised that others take a stand against what they are doing.

In the same way, if someone discloses that she is committing adultery, it is still seen as a sin and doing harm to another person (the spouse). Taking a position against what she is doing would not surprise her or anyone else.

Unfortunately, we cannot make that conclusion about every sin. I visited an island several years ago where the majority of the population are Hindus. Idols are everywhere. While idolatry is clearly wrong, I have to consider that the person I'm talking to will not see idolatry as wrong. Thus, any conversation I have about the matter needs to be more fundamental and address the reasons the gods of the idols are not real.

Fornication is, sadly, an accepted way of life in the modern world, so accepted that you will find people in various denominations accepting it. Therefore, I need to consider what is missing from the person's understanding that causes them to not see the sin. That will likely require a longer conversation than the few words you can get in at an introduction. But you can see if you can find an opening. Ask openly an honestly, "I hope you don't mind my curiosity, but why did you choose to live together and not get married first?" Generally, people like to talk about themselves. See if they bring up some flawed reasoning that you can help them see is flawed, such as saying, "We couldn't afford to get married." "Really? Last I heard, a marriage license was only $25 down at the courthouse and the Justice of the Peace will do a wedding for $75." Almost always the conversation will eventually come down to the fact that the couple chose to live in sin and you can offer to show them from the Bible a better choice if they would like to study with you.

Homosexuality is becoming accepted, but worse, it is being pushed for everyone to accept it. Often you find people just trying to force a conflict by boldly proclaiming that they are living a life that not long ago was commonly rejected. Here again, you need to find the deeper problem that leads people to ignore the fact that homosexuality is a sin. "Does your church actually accept homosexuality?" "When did your church change its position?" "Why would people think they have the right to alter what the Bible says?" Depending on the person and the group they belong to, this series of questions gets to one of the root problems of homosexuality: that men are altering the teachings of God.

Consider that while you are highly unlikely to change a person's mind about a subject in a few minutes, you can leave them with something to consider in the coming days.

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