You have been having conversations about Jesus with a young man. Maybe he has been coming to your church, maybe he is a co-worker, or a friend. But you have had several conversations and you are feeling hopeful. One day he asks you this question, “If I become a Christian will I have to stop living with my girlfriend?” Or maybe he asks, “If I become a Christian, will I have to stop living with my boyfriend?”
What do you say? Now, at a most fundamental level, we hope the Holy Spirit will guide us to the perfect answer for the particular, unique situation in front of you. Pray for this help! In the meantime, here are some general points.
First, take time to explain the central truths of the Gospel
In particular, that Jesus does not “weigh up” the good things we do; He pardons our sin. When He died on the cross for you and for me – the just consequence of every single wrong thing I have ever done, and the just consequence for every good thing within my power to do which I failed to do – the justice required fell on Him in my place and yours.
This “sin-bearing death” is not just for every sin you have been responsible for, but also every sin you will be responsible for. I receive this by faith alone and when I turn to Jesus to be my Saviour, then God with grace-soaked power unites you with Christ, so that His death is for you, and His perfect standing with the Father becomes yours as well. Often the young man will then ask, “Does that mean I can keep living with my girlfriend/boyfriend?”
Second, explain that you will be united with Christ
To be united with Christ means, well, that you will be united with Christ for every moment from your conversion on into eternity. It is no longer “just you”. There is a new person, presence, and power in your life. That is why we say, “the faith that saves leads to a faith that desires to obey.” There will now be a real presence in your life that begins to lead you to reject doing what is wrong and also to begin living in the way that God originally created you to live, and the way which you will fit with the new Creation – the new Heaven and Earth.
At some point now, the young man will say, “So I will have to leave my girlfriend/boyfriend?” This next part requires care. You want to be clear about grace and sin, but also not make it look like salvation is by works. So I try to say something like this.
Third, God’s grace will change you in regards to how you live, but in surprising ways
I say, “Imagine you become a Christian and you are in a room with other Christians. All of a sudden God shows up, and freezes everyone. He then touches each of us on the forehead, and what pops up is the unique list for each person of the 50 most important sins in their life, ranked from most important to least important (but still important!). Everyone’s list will be different.
You living with your girlfriend/boyfriend will be on the list. But I am not God. It might be that your living situation is #1, but it might be #10. Maybe pride or envy or greed are far more important right now. But be sure of this, your living situation will be on the list, and also be sure of this, that as the Gospel grips you more and more, shaping you, drawing you, nudging you, feeding you, that next step will be clear and be seen as wise.