In his epic ode to love, Paul the apostle declared, “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Good words for today, when gentleness is such a rare quality in relationships. Unfortunately, our desire to be patient and kind can also lead to passivity when a loved one begins to fall into sin. While it might seem loving to step lightly and speak softly when a loved one begins a pattern of wrongdoing, nothing could be more dangerous to a relationship. Here’s why:

Passivity Camouflages a Trap

Passivity allows a wayward loved one to gradually and comfortably enter Satan’s trap. An old folk legend claims that a frog dropped into a kettle of boiling water will immediately recognize the danger to his life and waste no time leaping out. However, a frog placed in a kettle at room temperature will happily continue to bask as the water is slowly heated, even to the point of boiling. The legend has become a standard illustration for the mortal danger of gradual change.

Sin is a trap that hypnotizes its victim into thinking that all is well. Convinced that the first transgression caused no harm, the wayward one rationalizes his or her decision. Meanwhile, Satan works overtime to insulate his prey from reality and to provide an opportunity to take sin a step further. Gradually, “bad” behavior seems less and less bad until the person becomes capable of astounding evil with little or no feelings of remorse. It’s not uncommon for a deluded sinner to become convinced that others are ultimately responsible for his or her sin and, in many cases, that the destructive behavior is actually good!

Whereas truth frustrates this gradual twisting of the mind, passivity allows Satan greater opportunity to isolate and deceive his prey. The wayward loved one needs, more than anything, a shocking dose of reality. The most loving response is to turn up the heat so that he or she will sense the danger and escape Satan’s trap.

Passivity Reinforces Sinful Behavior

Passivity reinforces the false promise of sin that we can do whatever we want without suffering negative consequences.

As Eve gazed at the forbidden fruit hanging within easy reach, she saw that it was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6). A serpent saw her longing gaze and moved a little closer. “You surely will not die!” (v. 4). His words contradicted her Creator’s stern warning; nevertheless, she and her husband swallowed Satan’s poisonous lie. And from that moment on, nothing would ever be the same. Within hours, the couple stood trembling as God explained how they would experience the consequences of disobedience. “Death” would not come immediately. Worse, death would painfully distort all of creation; death would come with sudden, unexpected certainty; and death would carry the soul to yet another kind of death, an eternal death too horrific to describe.

Imagine if, instead, God had remained passive and silent. At lunchtime the following day, Adam and Eve return to the forbidden tree to find the serpent lounging in its branches, wearing a contented smile. “See? What did I tell you? There you stand, quite alive! Take off that silly fig leaf underwear and have another delicious meal—on me.”

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t remain passive. Moved by love, He confronted Adam and Eve, opened their eyes to the consequences of their disobedience, and then cast them out of the Garden to make repeated sin more difficult (Gen. 3:22–24). His righteous anger reaffirmed His earlier warning that eternal life and disobedience cannot coexist. Sin leads to death. It’s a fundamental law of the universe that’s as predictable and as certain as gravity.

Remaining passive while someone balances precariously on the edge of skyscraper is not love. A wayward loved one needs intervention, not the casual affirmation of a passive response to sin.

Passivity Allows Sin to Harm Others

Passivity allows the destructive consequences of sin to devastate the innocent. Sin is a fire that destroys everything it touches. Substance abuse, rage, violence, sexual immorality, abandonment, neglect—any sin that burns out of control affects everyone, especially children. And a passive response to unrepentant sin is like standing idle while an arson sets fire to the people we love.

Passivity Undermines Respect

Passivity undermines a crucial element of any healthy relationship: respect. In his book Love Must Be Tough, Dr. James Dobson warns that nothing destroys a romantic relationship quicker than passivity and appeasement. On the other hand,

Successful marriages usually rest on a foundation of accountability between husbands and wives. They reinforce responsible behavior in one another by a divinely inspired system of checks and balances. In its absence, one party may gravitate toward abuse, insult, accusation, and ridicule of the other, while his or her victim placidly wipes away the tears and mutters with a smile, ‘Thanks, I needed that!'”1


Love That Is Tough

Unlike passivity, a proactive response to unrepentant sin reflects the character of God. He is relentlessly loving yet utterly uncompromising when it comes to behavior that undermines our relationship. Similarly, our loving response to sin must come from a place of strength, and sometimes, love must take strong, decisive, even aggressive action.

Tough love requires courage. Paul’s ode to love also declares that our selfless care for another “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). That means we may have to endure a period of time when our loved one doesn’t like us very much. But if we cling to the truth of God’s Word, and steadfastly reject destructive behavior, and with unwavering devotion call our wayward loved one to turn from wrongdoing, we offer our loved one a compelling reason to escape the trap of sin, and a chance to experience love as God intended it: love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

1 James Dobson, Love Must Be Tough: New Hope for Families in Crisis (Dallas: Word, 1996), 19.

When my wife of eighteen years closed the door on our marriage and drove away to meet her lover, I crumpled to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably. The news of her nine-month affair and her decision to leave me and our two children came just minutes apart, and out of nowhere. We never fought. We had just purchased a new home and had just planned the next five years of our family’s future. We had left our old marital difficulties behind and had built a strong intimacy before moving to Dallas to attend seminary. Our children openly boasted about the health of their parents’ marriage and the stability of our home. Everything was good.

Or so I thought.

The road to recovery was long and dark. I crawled at first. Then, I managed to hobble. In time, I grew strong enough to take long strides and recover from inevitable tumbles quickly. Eventually, I grew strong enough to stand up straight and ask myself a painfully difficult question: “What was my part?”

Find out how I answered that question, and how it applies to wives of porn addicts at the Breaking Free blog at

Not long ago, a couple asked to spend some time with Charissa and me. They were both divorced (due to the infidelity of their former partners), had met at church, and planned to marry soon. They had heard we had walked their path and had successfully blended a household with four teens (two hers and two mine).

All of our children were fifteen and older, so our job had been infinitely easier than most. Nevertheless, we did learn some great lessons. To prepare for our meeting with this very wise, mature, conscientious couple, Charissa and I tried to condense our hard-knock lessons down to something manageable. Here are the principles, rules, and tips we decided a blending family should consider.

Most of these principles, rules, and tips apply to parenting in general, but become especially important when becoming parents of a blended family.


Rules without a relationship always lead to rebellion.

You cannot become an authority until you have been an advocate.

Children need to feel some measure of control over their own lives; when they feel powerless, they rebel.

All children were created equal, but they were not created the same.

You can parent by controlling your children, or by earning their trust, never both.

You can be the very best mom or dad in the world, but you will never overcome biology.

Children always abuse the parent they trust most.

Sibling rivalry comes from a perception that there isn’t enough parental love to go around.

Children feel most secure when the marriage is strong.


Never disagree in front of the children. Remain silent, address the issue later, and make adjustments together.

Never discipline your spouse’s child; gently report problem behavior to your spouse, and focus on behavior, not perceived motives.

Never speak negatively of your spouse’s children, particularly in reference to their temperament, character, abilities, or prior upbringing.

Diligently guide each of your own children in the way each should go, and trust your spouse to do the same.

Discipline your own, but bless all of the children individually and equally.

Give priority to your mate as the best means of caring for your children.


Turn power-plays into opportunities to teach responsibility (decisions = consequences.)

Establish a procedure for resolving conflicts between step-siblings, explain the procedure to the children (as a couple), and follow it to the letter.

Make having fun together a priority by planning lots of opportunities; think creatively and seek variety. Encourage participation by inviting each child to join the fun. Entice; do not compel.

Whenever possible, give each child opportunities to make choices, especially those affecting the household.

Plan family meals in advance, giving each child his or her choice of meal on a given night.

Plan a family vacation within six months of the wedding, and make anticipation a stress reliever for the family.

During the first six months (at least), plan on the family consuming every spare moment. Suspend hobbies and activities, and postpone every outside commitment that isn’t absolutely necessary. Devote this time to your marriage and to getting your new family settled into place. Things will get better in time–and sooner than you think!–but only if you start well.

Blending lives will necessarily create turbulence. This is to be expected. But if you remain calm, take the turbulence in stride, and apply your principles and rules consistently, life will again become manageable. In fact, I think you’ll discover as we did, that having these guiding principles, rules, and tips in place will solve a lot of problems before they arise. Charissa and I found the blending of our households to be a joyful experience, providing memories all six of us continue to cherish.

Sin is deadly, and unrepentant sin will kill a marriage. Regardless of the sin, whether “big” or “small” (from a human point of view), a spouse’s refusal to repent marks the beginning of the end of the marriage. However, there is hope. Like a cancer, if detected, identified, and treated, the marriage can become stronger than anyone ever imagined. Unfortunately, the remedy may be horrifically unpleasant for everyone involved. Nevertheless, unrepentant sin must be confronted. In the words of Christian author and psychologist, Dr. James Dobson, “love must be tough.”

The Lord is relentlessly loving yet utterly uncompromising when it comes to behavior that undermines our relationship. Similarly, we must be willing to stand firmly against sin. However, as women have discovered–more so than men–expressing anger or sorrow is not enough. No amount of arguing or tears will turn a sinner from his sin. It is a sad fact that when the Holy Spirit cracks the shell of a hardening heart, His tool of choice is usually the consequence of wrongdoing. Therefore, our response can be no different. For a tough-love confrontation to be truly effective, it must include no less than five essential steps. Moreover, each step must be thought out well in advance and then expressed with calm resolve at a single confrontation.

To understand the inner workings of a tough-love conversation, read the rest of this article on the Covenant Eyes blog, “Breaking Free.”

When speaking or writing on the topic of divorce, I inevitably encounter someone quoting Mal. 2:16, “For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel,” and usually with a kind of “so there!” attitude that settles a matter. This perplexed me at first. It’s like screaming at an oncologist, “Cancer is evil!”

Eventually, I came to realize that many Christians simply have no exposure to this terribly complex, deeply sorrowful issue. And to that, I say “Amen!” May nothing strip them of their innocence. Would to God the rest of us could return. Unfortunately, we must deal with life as it is.

The problem is evil. It’s terribly confusing for those who believe that God is all-powerful, sovereign over creation, and fundamentally good. God hates evil and He’s all-powerful, so why does He allow evil to continue? This “problem of evil,” as it is called by philosophers, also makes divorce difficult for believers to comprehend, especially as it relates to filing the necessary forms with the court. (more…)

34 - Hope for the Littlest People (iStock_000007655825XSmall)Imagine living in a world where almost everyone is twice your size. Your world exists somewhere between the knees and the belt buckle of most everyone you know. One wrong step on a crowded sidewalk could send you sprawling. Almost everything reminds you of your helplessness. Doors too big to push, counters too high to see over, and virtually everything in the world can burn you, bite you, or fall on you. Children understand better than anyone how small and helpless all of us are in this dangerous, unpredictable universe. But without proper perspective and guidance, their vulnerability can breed fear, which can in turn, trigger destructive coping mechanisms that will plague them as adults.

Many adults choose to deny what children accept without question. Compared to so vast a universe, we are but specks, lasting just a few moments in the grand sweep of eternity. And we are very fragile specks, at that. Just as children need the guidance of wise adults to gain a proper perspective of their place in the world, adults need the perspective of the One who put us here and has a plan for us in this world. Without our Creator’s perspective, these two points of view expose two sources of anxiety that, as adults, we have learned to cope with—and perhaps inappropriately. (more…)

33 - Empty Pockets (iStock_000005376392XSmall)Has the Lord called you to accomplish something beyond your ability? Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? Imagine how the disciples felt as a multitude grumbled for food and Jesus said, without a hint of sarcasm or humor, “You feed them.”

Jesus had been trying to escape the demands of ministry—if only for a short time—so He might gather strength from His Father and prepare Himself for the busy Passover celebration. But the crowds followed, so Jesus gave of Himself again. After teaching and perhaps healing for much of the day, the disciples suggested He send the people away before they grew hungry. Instead, the Master tasked His small band of apprentices to feed the followers. Phillip’s eyes scanned the sea of faces and quickly tallied the estimated food bill for five thousand men and their families. His figure merely confirmed the obvious. Feeding that many mouths would require a sum far greater than all twelve men could earn in a year. And who would have that much food to sell out there in the wilderness, anyway? Clearly, the Lord could not have been serious. Why would He ask the disciples for so much, knowing they had so little? (more…)


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