This blog has been dormant for a while. I hope to “wake it up” soon (and I see a backlog of comments that need to go through moderation). This article is not a “waking up”, really.
I wrote the following, this weekend, for someone who had a loved one, a professing Christian, who was abusing drugs. In part because of the help it provided, he has checked into a Christian drug rehabilitation centre in America, a wonderful answer to a long-term prayer request.
His relatives asked me to make it public so that it might help others. After removing personal details and with minor modifications, here it is. This is a painful topic to many families and I am closing comments on this post, but I can be contacted through my contact page if needed.
DRUG ABUSE AND THE CHRISTIAN
Many Christians do not really understand what the Scriptures have to say about the abuse of drugs. Perhaps because of this lack of understanding, it is not always taken as seriously as it should be. The abuse of drugs violates multiple Scriptural injunctions.
When we think of witchcraft or sorcery, we often think of using magic spells or related activities. In Acts 8:9 and several other passages, that is clearly what is in view (the Greek word is “mageuo”, magic). Sometimes it appears that the “magic” is only tricks and deception (perhaps that was the case in Acts 8), but probably sometimes supernatural demonic power is at work (as in Acts 16).
The term “witchcraft” actually refers to ANY deceptive altering of perceptions so that they do not match reality, and this is what is happening in the abuse of drugs. Galatians 5:20 refers to “witchcraft” but the underlying Greek word is “pharmakeia” – the use of drugs to manufacture false feelings or perceptions. The same word is used in Revelation 9:21 and 18:23. And those who abuse drugs in this way (Greek “pharmakos”, translated “sorcerers”) are barred from the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:15) and have their place in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).
Many people who abuse drugs would be shocked and offended to hear themselves called sorcerers, but that is what the Bible calls them. Someone who persists in this behaviour cannot expect to be considered a Christian or treated as such by other Christians. They have opened their minds to demonic influences which will have far-reaching and sometimes unexpected effects.
Some who abuse drugs would say they are not drunkards because they do not drink alcohol. Even the world knows this is not true, and in many jurisdictions the criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs match those for driving under the influence of alcohol. Any substance which affects perceptions and mental responses can trigger what Scripture calls drunkenness.
Drunkenness is forbidden in Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:21, and many other passages.
Christians must “submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (I Peter 2:13). Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But in almost every case, those who abuse drugs end up breaking the law, and are therefore violating a clear command of Scripture.
The abuse of drugs often results in many other sins. I’ll mention two in particular.
Neglect of Responsibilities. I Timothy 5:8 says that “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” The context is specifically in regard to the care of widows, and so would have especially in view a man’s care for his widowed mother or perhaps a brother’s widow. But the principle obviously encompasses his own spouse and children.
Drug abuse can result in the loss of employment, either directly or by impacting mental processes in such a way that employment is lost. Overdoses can result in death (the ultimate failure to provide) or physical and mental damage which makes provision extremely difficult. The financial costs of the drugs often negatively impact the ability to provide.
Those who abuse drugs are choosing to engage in behaviour which can lead, directly or indirectly, to failing to provide and thus, denying the faith.
Sexual Immorality. Many drug abusers freely admit that there is a link between drug abuse and sexual behaviour. There are biological reasons for this – drug abuse lowers inhibitions, and some drugs share some neurological effects with sexual intimacy.
But there are also spiritual reasons. Drug abuse gives Satan an opportunity to take control, and a destructive sin like fornication is one of his favourite weapons. So many who abuse drugs also end up engaging in aberrant sexual behaviour or at the very least, engage in very impure thoughts or actions such as viewing pornography. The Biblical injunction against “fornication” is a broad term that applies to all these things.
Other sins which may often accompany drug abuse are laziness, bitterness, dishonesty, violent behaviour, theft, etc.
I Corinthians 5 is very clear. If someone who claims to be a Christian is doing this, that person is to be put out of the church. Verse 11 mentions “drunkards.” It also mentions “idolaters” which is closely aligned with witchcraft, exalting another power against God. If the drug abuser is also involved in fornication, as often happens, that also is mentioned.
WHAT IF THE PERSON IS NOT A CHURCH MEMBER?
Often the professing believer doing this is not part of a Biblically functioning church. If they were, they would be put out of it, and the injunction to not keep company with them should still apply. We are not allowed to just go on in the normal relationship with them as if this isn’t happening. A parallel passage is II Thessalonians 3, which uses the word “withdraw.” We are to break off friendly relations with them. This is true even if they aren’t using the drugs in our presence – as long as they are living in this kind of sin, we cannot continue with them.
Church discipline is not always immediate in such cases. In Revelation 2:21, the Lord said, “I gave her space to repent….” When sin is first exposed, the sinful habits can still be very strong, and repentance may be a struggle. But for the person who continues on in sinful behaviour and attitudes without any real evidence of repentance or attempts to overcome those habits, church discipline is necessary. And if that person is not part of a Biblically functioning church, we as believers must act as if they are under discipline.
THE DANGER OF “ENABLING” THOSE UNDER DISCIPLINE
Ephesians 5:11 tells us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” That means Christians should do nothing that in any way enables or facilitates a drug abuser continuing in their current behaviour – otherwise, they are effectively “having fellowship” with it. Few Christians would buy the drugs, or knowingly give a drug abuser money with which to buy drugs. But many do other things which facilitate or enable the continuing drug abuse of their loved ones.
They may lie to cover the sin. They may neglect to report lawbreaking which they would report if it were anyone else. They may shelter the loved one from the consequences of the drug abuse by cleaning up after them, by providing food (allowing the drug abuser to spend their money on drugs instead), by paying rent, by in general doing things that make the loved one’s life easier.
Even more common, they allow the drug abuser to have the same place in the family they’ve always had. This may not be financial enabling, but it is emotional enabling. That may seem kind, but it is not how we treat a professing Christian who is in this kind of sin. It is not loving to shelter the unrepentant from the consequences of their sin – when we do, we make it easier for them to continue in it.
THE SINNER’S NEED TO BE ASHAMED
A professing Christian who is under, or should be under, church discipline needs to be ashamed of his behaviour. Our behaviour toward him should make him ashamed (II Thessalonians 3:14), and we should do nothing that diminishes that shame. That may often involve a complete breaking of contact even with family members. They must not be allowed to think that things can just go on as things were.
Every case is different, and giving counsel without knowing and talking to the people involved is not always wise. How much “space to repent” should be given? But the Biblical principles are very clear. And often this means relatives need to withdraw from the home of the person doing this, and no longer do anything that facilitates his life nor anything that makes him think he is behaving acceptably as a family member, as a person, most of all as a believer.
That is a hard thing to say, but sometimes love has to be tough. God’s love is so tough that it required the Cross to restore our relationship with Him. He always wants us to hold out the possibility of healed relationships, but He does not want us to act as if relationship-destroying behaviour doesn’t matter.
I know this is all heartbreaking for you and your family. Be assured of my prayer, and please let me know if you have any questions.