Family Intervention: Confronting Destructive Behavior



Dad has a “secret” drinking problem. Jasmine has an online addiction.  Tandy is into drugs. How does a family address addictions? What should a caring family member do? What are  real peacemakers to do?

Like a good doctor that gives his patient an unwelcome diagnosis, so families need to confront serious sin habits within the group. Caring doctors offer the truth, even if it hurts. The following passage deals with church discipline but surely have broader relationships application including the family.

“And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. . . .”  (Matt 18.15-16 NAS).


Evidence that intervention may be needed:

  • some family member has unhealthy, destructive, habit/sin
  • denial reigns
  • where sin resides, expect also lack of peace and joy, depression and disharmony.
  • being outside God’s plan can remove God’s blessing and fruitfulness members use euphemisms to hide or excuse the sin – “Dad’s not feeling well again.”
  • family avoids open, transparent discussion of problem
  • broken promises to stop the sin
  •  dual reality: shallow, all is well pretense when all know there is an underling problem  being avoided. Deep heartache persists. (King Saul; Judas Iscariot lived a double life, a lie)


  •  support system which enables (Ex – lie for him to his boss about his absence)
  • fear of reprisal if confront the problem
  • intervention is risky; the sinner may bolt  the family or alienation deepens 
  • feeling of powerlessness; discouragement, hopelessness can dominate the family 
  • reprisal and punishment for any not sticking with the fake reality
  • apathy or fear reigns. Low view of Jesus’ deliverance, power and victory. Faith teaching  and  family harmony suffer.

Solution Principles:

  • First, reject the devil’s lie that sin has won – that there is no fix for this  problem! (Phil 4.13; 1 Jn 3.8; 4.4)
  • Unleash God’s power through prayer mixed with faith.
  •  Get the facts out in the open. No more hiding, pretending or games.
  • Let sin run its course. A Prodigal Son’s trip to the far country of sin may be unavoidable if he is  to discover that his behavior is self-destructive and is rebellion against  parents and God. Love the sinner but hate the sin.
  • The Holy Spirit is never double-minded. He will not tell family members,”Joe is oin sin,” while saying to Joe, “You are OK.”  If you have peace about the matter deal with it.
  • Preserving the godly home is vital. No rebel should be allowed to defile the others, especially children. Sin should not rule the home unconfronted.
  • Especially if a head of the family is the culprit, first get counsel on how to handle it. Perhaps the pastor  should also be involved.
  • Do not enable the sinner. Never give cash or pay bills for an addict. Do not free up his money for his addiction. This perpetuates the habit; delays deliverance. The Bible warns not to join a sinner in his sin.
  • Choices have consequences. It was real hunger, deprivation,  that finally brought the Prodigal Son to his senses (Lu 15). God uses deprivation. (Dan 4.28-37).  Do not remove sin’s consequences. Is one wiser or more loving than God?  “God whispers through pleasure and shouts through pain.” – C.S. Lewis.
  • Peacemakers, mediators, that will not confront sin are dull axes and three-legged mules.(2 Sam 12; Prov 28.13).
  • Let fresh air in. Seek outside help from a wise, experienced, Bible believing, born again pastor or counselor.
  • Do not think that your situation is unique or beyond hope (1 Cor 10.13).
  • Call down God’s healing power!!! Claim, believe, powerful Bible promises (Phil 4.13,19; Psa 73.26).

These principles obviously apply to human relationships, groups and organizations besides the family. The prophet Nathan confronted government leader, King David regarding his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12). Though king, David needed help to  deal with  his sin. He would not admit it. The longer one waits to confess, the wider the ripples, the more harm sin can do.

 Jesus wants to fix issues with real healing. False reality, pretense, are not peace. God gives real peace.


About FredKerr

Bible teacher, M.Div, exercising, pizza, herbal tea, eating out with wife and friends, plants, classic Scripture choruses, hymns, variations of Canon D by Pachabel, clean jokes
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