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Why is it so hard to love the Black Sheep?

Over the past months I have witnessed many circumstances where someone whom is loved very much is behaving in ways that go against Biblical values. 

Some families would label these individuals as the 'Black Sheep' of the family, indicating that their conduct was unacceptable and not in line with the expected behavior.  

Although many of us may have gone through a phase of life where we had been identified as the Black Sheep, we may have been able to quickly change our rebellious actions. Some individuals however, make this a long term lifestyle choice where they maintain their rebellious behavior.  This can be painfully hard to deal with as a friend or family member.

I've had several discussions with friends and family regarding how to respond with the individual who has chosen to be the Black Sheep.  This is especially challenging when it happens with a spouse, child, sibling, or close friend.  When the ones we love the most in our inner circle act unlovable or do the unthinkable, it can be difficult to decide how to respond since we see them on a regular basis.

What do you do if.....

Your Son's doing drugs, your best friend is having an affair, your cousin becomes the spokesperson for a cause that goes against your morals beliefs, or your brother is addicted to pornography?

These are just a few examples of potential scenarios. My goal is not to address the steps to take in dealing with each of these issues and resolving them....that is another topic for another day. 

What I do want to speak about is how we hold these individuals in our heart after we find out that they are doing things that go against our moral code.

Are we to withdraw our love, time, and possibly affection from the Black Sheep seeing them only occasionally for what they've done or are still doing? Are we to cut them out of our lives completely and avoid all contact? Or, should we love them continually in spite of their behaviors, realizing that the action of the Black Sheep is inappropriate and/or sinful, and we can hate the sin and still love the sinner?  

Making this decision regarding our response can be a struggle because we can be concerned that our acts of kindness might be interpreted as approving their rebellious behavior.  

When it hits close to home and you're faced with dealing with the Black Sheep on a regular basis, you soon realize that you can't just avoid them. You will discover that you must confront the issue of how you're going to manage the relationship from this point forward with this individual. 

When I was a very small child I was driving in the car with my Grandma and I said "I hate ______ she is mean to me!" and my Grandmother calmly and quickly corrected me and said "Honey, you shouldn't hate people, we can hate the things that they do, but not them." 

I didn't really like that answer because I was mad at this person and I wanted to be mad at them. I thought about it briefly and went about my day leaving all of it behind. The funny thing I am, almost 30 years later, and I still remember that conversation with my Grandma and her wise counsel. It has come to my mind many times over the course of my life. I have been given more than one opportunity to apply this principal to my life.

Living in a fallen world of imperfect people, (of which I am one) it is inevitable that someone we love deeply will do something that goes against everything that we believe. The question is, can we love them even if we don't like what they are doing?

When I was going through my time of Black Sheep rebellion, God gently reminded me that He has continued to love me even though I have had many times of acting in ways that surely broke his heart.

As the Scriptures instruct us, He has called His children to love one another the same way He loves us. 

John 13:34-35 
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This can be a tough pill to swallow, because this is much easier said that done. Can we still love our friends and family and separate our love for them from the things that they do? Can we continue to act out our love in tangible ways even when they are in the midst of what we believe to be unlovable? Based on the Scripture we just read, the answer is... 

Yes we can! 

It is not always easy, but the beauty for those who follow Jesus is that He gives the strength to do the things that we cannot do on our own. And LOVE is a high priority for our God, because God is Love.

1 John 4:8 
"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

God shows us throughout His Word that we can do this without compromising our own convictions. We do not have to agree with the actions or lifestyle of the Black Sheep, but we can love them anyway.

Jesus faced a similar situation when the scribes and Pharisees brought him a woman who had been caught in adultery. She was a classic example of a woman labelled as a Black Sheep.  We know how God feels about adultery as the Bible says:

Proverbs 6:28, 29, 32
"Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself." 

And yet, in the book of John, Jesus was responding to them about the adulterous woman, and after they reminded Him that the Law of Moses required them to stone the woman, He asked them:

John 8:7,10,11
"He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." and when everyone started to leave and He was left alone with the woman He said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you either Go from now on and sin no more." 

Jesus was aware of her sin, there was no doubt, and the scribes and Pharisees made sure He remembered.

This is much like our family, friends, and acquaintances who decide it is their responsibility to remind us of all that is going wrong in the life of the Black Sheep we love.

Should we be the one's to condemn the Black Sheep?  I don't think so. If indeed they are having an action worthy of condemnation, it is not our job to do the condemning. God's Word tells us that it is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to do these things:

John 16:8
"And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment"

I will leave you with this thought...."Is there a Black Sheep in your life? Can you keep showing them love? If you don't, there may never be another person on earth that will. Love is more powerful than we understand, and it may take years but it's a seed that once planted...will likely bloom into a beautiful flower."

Galatians 5:22-23
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."


  1. Thank you for posting this! I have a black sheep that I love so much. Sometimes I wonder if God wants me to stay clear of him. You helped affirm my decision to keep loving him and praying for him, to be his friend no matter what.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    You are welcome! I'm happy to hear that this post has helped. I have struggled with this issue myself, which is how I came about writing the article.

    As I read my Bible and prayed, I just kept coming back to the answer to 'love'. We don't have to condone or promote poor choices, but we can still love the person and as you mentioned...continue to pray!

    There can come a point where spending too much time can be a bad idea if the person is doing things that could cause you harm or major difficulty, so of course I would always suggest to pray about it and ask God for His guidance.

    I have a family member that everyone was praying would stop a life of addiction and poor choices for about 40+ years and at times that was very discouraging because everyone prayed for such a long time without seeing a difference. But that person has come around and is living a life for Jesus and is now making good decisions about life. So I want to encourage you...don't give up!

    God Bless,


  3. Hi,

    I just want to asked a question regarding a verse the Bible also "We should not be equally yolk with the unbelievers". I am just a bit confused because it brings irony to the passages you presented. Please help me to understand. Thank you so much.

  4. Love your article!

    I'm in love with a black sheep. He is into drinking, smoking, drugs and skipping classes to laze around. But I have a soft corner for him because I'm a black sheep too (I'm not the socialite my family wants me to be). In some way, we have a lot in common, and in some way we don't (such as his habits).

    Sometimes, I wonder what if a black sheep is only destined to have another black sheep .... Do we not deserve to be treated the same as the normal sheep? What makes a white sheep better than me, almost enough for him to look down upon me as being insufficient?


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