Confronting an Alcoholic

Alcoholism is a huge problem in the United States – even in the Christian church.  Since it isn’t always a clearly visible sin, we may forget about it or think it isn’t such a big deal.  In fact, some Christians are oblivious to it to the extent that they flaunt their love of all kinds of alcohol without considering what effect that may have on others inside and outside of the church.  Some Christians sadly act like 16 year olds when talking about and consuming alcohol.  But alcoholism is real, it is serious, and it is a sin (cf. Rom 13:13, Gal 5:21, 1 Pet. 4:3).  If you’re dealing with drunkenness yourself or in the life of someone you know, I highly recommend Ed Welch’s Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave.  Here are a few helpful lines from Welch’s section on confronting an alcoholic (or someone with another addiction).

“…If you really want to lay a foundation for honesty, you must be a person who is quick to acknowledge your own sin, and who will not overreact to sin in those close to you.  To keep from overreacting, you must be persuaded that the problem is ultimately before God.  As the psalmist said… ‘Against you, you only have I sinned’ (Ps. 51:4).  It is not our law that has been violated, it is God’s.”

Welch then discusses the steps of confrontation and discipline in Matthew 18 (if it is a church context) and says that the goal is “love and restoration.”

What about the actual intervention – when you confront the addict face to face to tell him of his sin?  I don’t have room to summarize everything Welch writes, but here are a few (edited) notes:

1) Consider who would be best to participate in the intervention.  2) Have a time of personal repentance and prayer, remembering that the gap between the substance abuser and you is quite narrow. 3) Have each person explicitly [and specifically] describe some of the apparent signs and consequences of the addiction that he has witnessed.  4) Prepare follow-up options (i.e. cutting off all funds, protecting children involved, counseling, detox, etc.  5)  Set up the intervention.”

Of course Welch gives more wise advice on this topic from a biblical and gracious perspective.  In fact, Welch calls confrontation/intervention a “rescue mission.”  To learn more, you’ll have to get this book to read this chapter (5) and the rest of this excellent resource on addictions: Ed Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2001).

rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi