How to treat sister after divorce

Straight Talk

The Question:

My sister, who very recently divorced her husband of 30 years, announced she had fallen in love with another man. She is hoping we will be able to accept him into our family. I want to respond in a Christ-like manner, especially if she brings him to family events. What would Jesus do?


Catherine from Pennsylvania

The Answer
Part 1: The Truth of the Matter
Part 2: The High Road

The Truth of the Matter (Part 1)

What would Jesus do? That’s a very good question! To the woman caught in adultery in John 8:3 he said; “Go and sin no more.” To the scribes and the Pharisees he called them fools, blind and hypocrites to their face! (Matthew 23) Somehow Jesus looked deep into the heart of each person or situation and said something that precisely fit – extending grace or judgment where needed. Oh how we wish we had the same insight and discernment.

You did not mention if your sister is a Christian and I’m not sure if this other man had something to do with the split up of her marriage. Regardless, it sounds to me like you see sin in your sister’s life; she was not the innocent party.

Here is your dilemma then, if I understand correctly. As Christians, we don’t want to compromise, sweep sin under the rug or have the same permissive attitude the world has. On the opposite side of the coin, we know that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) and that we are called to extend love to sinners and saints alike.

Here are some observations of mine which may help you. The first one is that no matter what they say or how they act, people usually know when they have sinned. No one actually has to tell them even though we often feel a need to point it out for them. I’ll bet your sister is no exception. She is no doubt totally aware of her own failings in the deep places of her heart and she probably feels guilty whether she expresses it or not.

Your sister also probably knows where you stand. During the breakup and divorce, I’m sure there were family discussions and I’m sure you expressed yourself in such a way that she has no unclearness about your attitude toward adultery, divorce or taking up with the new guy.

The High Road (Part 2)

You are therefore free to take the high road and treat these two the way you would treat any two strangers coming into your midst in the same condition. How would you treat a couple invited to your house for dinner if you knew they were involved in some sin?

You would no doubt roll out the red carpet and try to make them comfortable and at home. You would not ask personal questions or get too deep into their issues. You would display courtesy and grace, hoping they would see the peace and genuine joy in your life so that it might draw them to the Savior.

None of this says you accept their life choices or current lifestyle. Instead, it creates an environment where the love of Christ can penetrate the hard places in both their heart and yours. You can pray and trust the Holy Spirit to do what he does best: bring conviction and soften hearts.

Since I mention prayer, don’t forget about that. Judging your sister is not as important as praying for her. Pray that she will experience fullness of life. Pray that her sins will be covered under the blood. Pray that she will come into her divine destiny. In fact, I would suggest having special prayer any time you know she is coming into your house.

You asked what Jesus would do. Ask him to please show up and make himself known every time you are with your sister and you may find out.