But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? . . . So I will come near to you for judgment. (Mal. 3:2, 5)

“THAT’S SO UNFAIR!” Amanda said, exasperated.

“Love me as I am or don’t love me at all,” Jo protested. “Don’t you think I deserve that? Look, I’m not going home for Christmas and that’s that.”

They’d been talking—or maybe arguing—at the local coffee shop for nearly an hour. Jo had given her parents an ultimatum: If she couldn’t bring her boyfriend home, she wasn’t coming.

“You’re living with him, Jo. You know that goes against your parents’ beliefs. Not so long ago, you agreed with them!”

“Well, times have changed, Amanda.”

“Really? So tell me this, Jo—twenty years from now your husband comes home and says he’s having an affair. He’s not leaving you, but he’s not stopping. He says, ‘Jo, love me as I am or don’t love me at all. After all, times have changed.’”

“That’s not the same thing!” Jo barked.

“It is, Jo. And you’d feel what your parents now feel—what God feels. You’d love him, but you’d oppose—with everything in your being—what he’s doing.”

Jo sat back in her chair, stung.

“Times have changed, Jo, but God hasn’t. You’re forcing your parents—and God—to equate their love for you with your choices—choices you know are wrong.”

“They’re not wrong!” Jo thundered. “Look, Amanda, I’m sticking with my man, OK? And you can’t tell me different.”

Behind the Malachi warnings is a heart of compassion; search your heart for any stubborn refusal to repent.

Thaddeus Barnum is the author of the devotionals Real IdentityandReal Love(WPH), as well as a pastor in Connecticut.