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When Our Loved Ones Lose Their Moral Compass

by Matt Adams

CompassHave you ever tried to use a compass or navigated using a map? With technology advancing like it has, most of us now wouldn’t choose artifacts such as a compass or a map as our primary tool for navigation. However, a compass is a very simple tool and requires that you know only one thing: where you are headed. Let there be no mistake, the compass, though simple, requires effort and concentration on the part of the user. Sure, the compass can point you in the direction but you must take the steps necessary to reach your destination, as well as maneuver around the obstacles that will inevitably arise along the way. Does this sound like your walk with the Lord?  

Has a loved one seemingly lost his direction in life? Does it seem that a loved one has lost his moral compass?  

The truth is, no one has actually lost his moral compass, he has just chosen to ignore it and navigate blindly; or perhaps he is navigating to a destination nowhere on the map to heaven but rather to a dream world that Satan has deceived him into believing exists. Let us notice some facts:

  • No one who has left the Lord has reached heaven, and no one ever will.
  • No one who has chosen the path of unrighteousness and fulfilling the desires of the flesh has attained true peace and happiness, and never will.
  • No one who has departed from the Lord truly grasps what real love is, for God is love, and without Him there is nothing but terror, emptiness, and sorrow.

Sure, the world has people who are “happy”, claim to have “peace,” claim to be “fulfilled,” and claim to know real “love” … nobody denies that. In fact the world is full of those types of people, but is that happiness, peace, fulfillment, and love according to man’s standards or God’s? The deceptive power of Satan can be overwhelming at times. You and I have both witnessed that fact. Those whom we have loved through the years can, it seems to us, in an instant fall away. Our hearts ache as we see, or learn of, them engaging in activities that it is certain they know are absolutely sinful; yet our loved one seeks to justify himself and condemn others for being “too strict” or “unloving” because Bible truth is expressed to him. Yes, friend, it hurts deeply and we sorrow and cry out to God for strength and courage. We hit our knees in humble prayer to God asking Him one of the the hardest things of all: whatever it takes to bring our loved one back to a saved state, whatever it takes for him to be humbled and repent, Lord please let it be done.  

The question now arises in our minds: Lord, what do I do? What do I do when someone I love has seemingly “lost” his moral compass? 

As we have stated before, no one actually loses his moral compass, he just chooses to ignore it or follow a different path. This might seem a matter of semantics, but I believe it is fundamental to our understanding about what to say or do. If one were to truly lose his moral compass then that would imply he doesn’t have the tools to return and is completely without help; I firmly deny that. Those who have left the Lord still possess the tools to return, because God gave them to all of us: His holy word, His precepts, His commands, and a soul that longs to return to its Maker. It is true that without using these tools we are lost, but let us not forget that refusing to follow Him is a choice not an accident of some sort, like losing our compass would be. Let’s look at what our responsibility is toward those who have chosen to ignore God’s compass and have left the straight and narrow in favor of the broad path.

Pray

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Take it all to the Lord in prayer and pour out your broken heart. He offers His peace unto us if we will but communicate humbly with Him. There is unspeakable peace that comes from knowing that it all has been placed in the Lord’s hands. He is the One from whom all blessings flow, and the “peace of God … will guard (y)our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” Let us rejoice that we have an avenue whereby we may speak to our Heavenly Father. Let us also rejoice that He speaks to us through His beautiful word. Let us rejoice, not because the circumstances are great, but because He has given us (and our lost loved one) the tools to get through this trial and be victorious. He has given us “… all that pertains to life and godliness …” (II Peter 1:3) which means we have everything we need to navigate through this life; may we seek the answers in His word for our troubles and those of others.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).

  • “Effective”: Successful in producing a desired or intended result
  • “Fervent” : Having or displaying a passionate intensity
  • “Avails much”: Help or benefit

Do these words describe our prayers? Consider the Psalms of David and see how he prayed to God. Draw strength from those prayers and model your own after them. Speak openly, humbly, and honestly with God for He knows our every thought. We must express it all to God and have the trust to leave it with Him and accept that some things are just out of our control. We can’t always fix somebody or some situation. But God’s word can and will every time, but only when that person humbles himself and submits to His word. Pray fervently to that end, God’s will be done in all things.

"… without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers … (Romans 1:9).

"Pray without ceasing …" (I Thessalonians 5:17).

"… without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day" (II Timothy 1:3).

Paul prayed for the well-being of his brethren “without ceasing” and he instructed them to do the same in their own lives. So we also must do, not only for those who have fallen away to return but also for ourselves, and others who are living righteously, that they may have the strength and courage to continue standing for, and living, the truth.

Consider Self

"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

You who are spiritual …

This is not only an admonition, but also a warning that if we are seeking to help another be restored to God that we too must be spiritual. This means not according to the flesh; our lives are to be righteous and holy before God. Having been found righteous, we must seek to restore the lost brother in a spirit of gentleness, “considering ourselves” because we are just as fallible as everyone else, no man is perfect. Reminding ourselves of these facts helps us to be centered and focus harder on our own lives so, when the time comes, we will then be better equipped to help another right his wrongs.

"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).

No one is exempt from the temptation to sin, but we don’t have to give in. We must “take heed lest ye fall,” knowing that when we think ourselves the strongest we can be knocked down because we fail to be aware of the surrounding dangers.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

We have all sinned and therefore we all been separated from God. But thanks be to God that we have been redeemed through His Son in baptism. Our loved ones have killed their souls with sin and only repentance and subjection to God can resurrect that soul from the corpse it has become. Watch out for your own soul that you do not slip into sin while trying to help others with theirs.

"For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:2-5).

Remove the plank from our own eye; do not self-righteously judge another. Our loved one must abide by the judgments of God, that is true; but may we not forget that we also must answer and abide by those same judgments. God is without partiality, no man is exempt from His commands, so while we seek to restore another let’s not be blind to our own faults.

Share God’s Word (Speak Up and Warn Them)

"… when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity … because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:20).

Many times we will feel as if we are being ignored by our wayward loved one and, sadly, most of the time we probably are. But, the unrighteous have quiet moments too. For proof, look at David’s hurt when he departed from the Lord with the events surrounding his sin with Bathsheba. David knew the right way, like our loved ones do, but he chose to ignore it in favor of pleasing the flesh. Yet, in his quiet moments, he was tormented by what he knew in his heart of hearts (Psalms 32; 51). You never know when a truth you might share, a gentle pleading, or a firm rebuke might be recalled to memory by the wayward soul. It may take finally hitting rock bottom before God’s truth hits them and touches their heart, so let us be the vessel by which the Word of God is fresh in their minds or at least stored up in their memory for later.

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear" (Proverbs 25:11-12).

Having the right words is sometimes very hard, especially in difficult circumstances. There are times when our silence is just as loud as our words and it is just what is needed for the situation; at other times we must speak up. One blessing we have as children of God is having His complete revealed word in our hands. When you struggle with what to say, first go to God’s Word and see what God has to say about the sin, the situation, and how to deal with the one in error. Next, study what God has to say about how we are to conduct ourselves while dealing with the situation at hand. When we handle our trials with God, we will not be at a loss for words because God has already said it all.

Try writing a letter, an email, or sending a text. Write something private and personal that they can re-read later. I recommend doing such in the order mentioned; email and texting are great tools, but guard yourself against hasty replies, quickly written thoughts or rants, or anything which you have not taken proper time to consider. And, whatever you do, don’t air the dirty laundry in a public forum (Facebook, twitter, youtube, blogs, etc.); there are times when public rebuke is necessary but there are also times when discretion is the better judgment. Consider that when we bring our words into a public forum, the likelihood of someone sympathizing with our erring brother is much higher. This can result in leading others astray and also undoing a great deal of good that may have been achieved had we chosen to deal directly with him. A suggestion: keep your personal thoughts to this individual between God, you, and the one in error. In some cases your window of opportunity is very small before all communication is shut down, so say what needs to be said and do so thoughtfully (not rashly).

"But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person" (I Corinthinans 5:11).

Do not keep company with them socially.

Our actions can speak just as loud as our words. We can say all of the right things, but if our actions don’t change then the message is conflicting. If we value their soul we will depart from them in a social context in order that they be ashamed of their sin (2T hess.3:13-15; 1 Cor.5:11). Loving our brethren demands we advise them to not love the world, and that we walk in the truth ourselves. True Bible love does not withhold the truth of their condition in favor of their feelings or in favor of just “keeping the peace”. True Bible love requires that the truth be made known and that repentance be required, else we’re doing a grave disservice. Coddling one who is in error hurts everyone connected. Consider the warning in 2 John 9-11 against sympathizing with the sinner.

"… Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth…They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work" (Titus 1:10-16).

Sharp rebuke and righteous indignation are profitable, do not discount their importance.

I am convinced that too much of our time is spent trying to be “politically correct,” which is just a nice way of saying “spineless.” For some of us, we treat sin as if it is just some minor infraction that might possibly require one to perhaps stop doing their supposed sin if by some chance they maybe feel like it at some point. If that didn’t make sense then it is for good reason, and it’s no wonder some leave the faith with that approach and attitude towards sin. Let’s wake up friends! Sin is serious, deadly, and its punishment is eternal! Convey those thoughts to the wayward soul from God’s Word. Proper care in doing so is always required; words spoken bitterly, rashly, and in hate do no good (James 3). True love, as God displays, demands that we warn the sinner of his ways with God’s word; remind him of the goodness of God; seek restoration of his soul. What we deem a sharp rebuke for one may not be enough for another; each situation is different and requires some knowledge of the one we are seeking to reach. Love each and every soul enough to truly hate the sin being engaged in and let your speech reflect as much, for we will be held accountable for our warnings, or lack thereof, to the erring soul (Ezekiel 3:20-21).

"For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning … But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire”" (II Peter 2:20-22).

The Lord detests sin, and this verse shows just how disgusting it is when one of His children returns to the vomit and refuse that is the world. Sin is ugly, not glamorous. Sin is filthy, not a novelty. Sin is death, not living.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

We will surely die if we stay in our sin, make this known to those who desire to give in to the desires of the flesh. It will end in death, spiritual death most importantly.

Value Their Soul

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

Trust may be broken, feelings may be hurt, respect may be lost, and deep disappointment may come. However, this does not give us permission to label the person in error as sub-human, trash, worthless, or any other name which classifies them as someone not worthy of the saving blood of Christ. Who are we to determine such a thing? Did not Christ die for all sinners? Have we not sinned against God? Have we not been enemies of our Lord in times past? (Romans 3:23; I Peter 4:3-8)

Those who have left the Lord still have value. They are still worth something, their soul is precious. Those who have left the Lord still have good inside them; they just have refused to acknowledge it and/or have seared their conscience (I Timothy 4:1-3). However, they have the choice to leave those ways and return to God.

Remember that while there is still time, the Father awaits the return of His children (II Peter 3:9).

God awaits the sheep who have gone astray, and so should we. Never stop loving, never stop caring, never stop looking for the prodigal to return. Read over the parables of lost things in Luke 15 and gain strength from the lessons taught there. These parables impact us even stronger when it is our loved one whom has gone “to a far country and there wasted possessions with prodigal living.

Lean on The Lord

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Lean on the Lord, go to Him with all your cares, heartaches, and worries. He alone can heal our broken hearts and give us the strength to carry on. Seek Him, believe Him, trust Him, love Him with all you have.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So many times we try to answer the question of “why” something is happening or perhaps we attempt to explain through our limited knowledge the reasons for suffering, why others leave the Lord, or many other happenings in life. Through it all, we need to understand that sometimes there is not an explanation but there is always some way to grow closer to the Lord no matter the circumstance. While leaning on the Lord, let’s look for the lessons in every trial. Trust God who is all knowing, acknowledge Him in all we do, and walk that straight and narrow path with Him as He so lovingly leads us to Heaven.

Whatever may be the case in your life while going through this trying time do not give up on the Lord. He is our strength, He is our hope, He is our salvation. Remember that our loved ones who have decided to leave the Lord have not “lost” their moral compass; God’s word still stands true and it always will; they’re just choosing to ignore God right now and foolishly follow the broad path to destruction. Take courage and learn from the trials you face now so you may be able to stand tomorrow and perhaps help someone else in their trials of a like nature (James 1:2-4). Remember that our Savior calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee with a simple, “Peace, be still,” and He will most certainly calm the storm of our lives if we will but draw close to Him. May we all draw nearer to the Lord, pray, teach, speak up, value souls, and seek the Kingdom first. We will hurt in this life, that is a fact, but no hurt we can imagine will ever be as severe as the hurt of being eternally separated from God our Father. God’s word is powerful; be certain that it has the power to save even the vilest sinner from eternal destruction; may we never cease believing it, teaching it, living it. In closing, let us draw strength from the words that Moses imparted to Israel before he departed this life:

"Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid … for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Press on brothers and sisters, we’re not home yet.