Responding in Truth and Grace to the Sexually Broken

Three guiding principles when journeying with someone who struggles with sexual sin

By Raphael Zhang
10 May, 2016

You just came to know that someone you love is dealing with an issue of sexual brokenness. It could be pornography addiction or a relationship with unhealthy emotional or sexual boundaries. The person could be struggling with homosexual desires or issues of gender identity. What should you do?

Because the complexity of the issue varies from person to person—depending on the nature of sexual brokenness and how entrenched the person is in it — there is no simple, one-size-fit-all answer. However, there are a few principles you might find helpful:

1. Process your own emotions

It was likely difficult for you to hear how this person has been struggling. If this person is a family member, it might probably have been heartbreaking on an added level: you might be feeling anger, betrayal, sadness, confusion, amidst other emotions.

You might feel like rushing in to recommend resources or help channels one after another to the person. You may blame the person or try to control his or her behaviour in an attempt to create immediate improvement. These would not be helpful.

It is important for you to first process your own emotions, whether with trusted family members or friends, church leaders who can offer wise, godly counsel, or a counselor, so that you can be in the best place to help this person. In order for you to seek God’s best for them, you must first be able to be in a good place, in your mind and heart, where you can clearly discern God’s — and not your own — timely and appropriate solutions for them.

2. Seek to understand the person

It is important to avoid making assumptions or speculations about the person’s struggles with sexual brokenness. Instead, seek to actively listen to them. Provide an empathetic, listening ear — take time and effort to understand their struggle and acknowledge their pain and difficulty.

There are often many contributing factors to sexual brokenness in a person’s life, ranging from family dynamics, social environment, trauma or abuse, psychological and emotional Issues, and how the person’s temperament or personality affects their response to these factors.

Helping the person is not simply telling the person to stop the behaviour; they have probably already tried to do so many times, but are unable to. Rather, it is about understanding their root issues and deep wounds, their triggers and coping mechanisms. Only then can you better journey with them or suggest the appropriate help channels or resources when they are ready.

3. Respond in both truth and grace

We do not want to be high on truth and low on grace, telling the person that they should have known what the Bible has said about their area of struggle. Chances are, the person probably already knows what the biblical stand is, and they have been feeling lousy about falling short. This is the time to offer compassion and to be a safe place for them to talk about the issue.

Neither do we want to be high on grace and low on truth, encouraging the person in their sexual brokenness if they insist it gives them happiness. True happiness cannot be found apart from holiness, and it is only in following God’s commands that we can find life and blessings (Leviticus 18:5). As we journey with them, we have to continually help them to see how obeying God’s truths leads to true flourishing.

Instead, respond with truth and grace in equal measure, balancing biblical truth with godly compassion in helping the person to overcome their sexual brokenness. Here are three ways that can guide such a response:

Acceptance of the person: Accept and love the person unconditionally for who they are, because everyone is made in the image of God and are therefore worthy of dignity and respect. However, this does not mean approval of their sinful or unhealthy behaviour. We should love people in such a way that even when they are aware we disagree with the sin in their lives, they still know, without a doubt, that we love them and want the best for them.

Affirmation of change: Keep offering hope to those who are dealing with sexual brokenness. Though they may very much want to change and are trying to, they may keep falling into that particular area of sin. It takes time and effort to unlearn an old, unhealthy behaviour and to learn a new, healthy one. If they fall, encourage them not to give up and remind them that change is possible. Provide support to them in prayer and in other practical ways. As you discern the need and the timing, recommend professional or ministry help to them.

Accountability: It is important to set healthy boundaries with the person, so that the way you are journeying with them is helpful for them and for you. These boundaries depend on the kind of sexual brokenness the person is dealing with. Take time to find out more from relevant resources, godly counsel or help professionals. It is also good to involve the person in a godly community, where healthy fellowship and relationships with other Christians can provide additional support and encouragement.

It is not easy for a person to journey out of sexual brokenness. As we love the sexually broken whom God has called us to walk with, we have to regularly ask Him for wisdom and strength to do so. But as we participate in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18–21) and help those with brokenness to draw near to God, we can trust that He will come close to them to comfort and heal the brokenhearted (James 4:8; Psalm 147:3).

© 2016 Whole Life. All rights reserved.

If someone you love is dealing with sexual brokenness, contact us at Focus on the Family Singapore at 64910700 or via our website here, to make an appointment with a counselor.

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