July 1, 2008




written by both Carolyn and Monte Holland

When considering child abuse from the Scriptural perspective there are some important questions. Below is an attempt to answer some of them.

First: Children must be MADE to OBEY (their parents), right?

  • Obedience IS important. Ephesians 6:1, 4 and Colossians 3:20-21 instruct children to be obedient. However, this directive does not stop there: it continues on                         to instruct PARENTS not to PROVOKE their children. Implied is a mutual respect, and respect begets respect.
    Furthermore, “Nobody ever hates his own flesh, but rather nourishes and cherishes it just as Christ does for the church…” (Ephesians 5:29) Our children are born out of our love, part of a continuation of our flesh. We should, therefore, not treat them with hate or hateful actions.

Second: Does not the Bible, in Proverbs 13:24, state that to “spare the rod is to spoil the child?”

  • Nowhere in the New Testament—the “new law”—is abuse justified. Rather, the opposite is expected: “that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) We are directed in the “Great Commandment” (Matthew 22:37-40) that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our family members—our spouse and children and parents—are our closest “neighbors.” Hebrews 12:7-11 is one scripture that instructs us on discipline. It states that if you are without “discipline” “then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” The key word here is DISCIPLINE. Discipline differs from PUNISHMENT. The goal of discipline is to teach, to direct; it is a time consuming process. The goal of punishment is to control, often through fear; it usually has immediate results. LOVE is demonstrated in guiding a child via discipline into the ways of the Lord.

Third: Why shouldn’t a person abuse a child? After all, they need to be made civilized.

  • Humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Would we not think it improper and even sinful to violate or deface someone who bears the likeness of God? Since every person is made in God’s image, when anyone treats another individual with disrespect, when any one of us is being intentionally hurt, there is a violation of the divine image of God.
    Furthermore, I Corinthians 3:16-17 instructs us that our bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Is anyone justified in damaging or destroying God’s temple?

Fourth: Doesn’t a person who is abusive recognize their wrongness?

  • Not necessarily. A person who is abusive (or being abused) may not see the behavior as antagonistic to Christianity or human caring. They may be unclear of how little basis such conduct has in Christian truth, and needless unjustifiable pain may be inflicted partially because of fuzzy Christian thinking, or even a lack of this teaching. Furthermore, they may have grown up themselves in an abusive environment, and may believe that this is a cultural norm. Their own perspective, thus, may be warped due to the abuse THEY received.

Fifth: Did “the Devil make me do it?”

  • “Look what you made me do!” and “I would not have done that if…” are words that run throughout our child rearing. The abuser places blame for their abuse and his/her loss of control on some outside force—drugs, alcohol, the child’s (wife’s) behavior, etc. The Bible leaves no doubt that evil is a powerful force. Temptation is real and often ferocious, but “with every temptation is provided the way of escape.” (I Corinthians 10:13) Trying to “pass the buck (of blame)” and excusing behavior is to ignore the fact that the way of escape is available. Recall Adam’s excuse? Eve was his cause, and his excuse, for disobedience! Adam was the original “buck passer.”

Sixth: Is not the abused person being punished for some sin? Isn’t God trying to teach the abused person a lesson? Doesn’t God have a purpose in this abuse?

  • There is such a thing as reaping what one sows, but that is not all the reaping one does. We reap a great deal that we do not sow—both bad and good. Matthew 5:45 states “…for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” God does want us to grow and we may do s as a RESULT of terrible experiences. But it would be a despicable God who SEEKS this growth through lessons caused by others harming them. The hand that hurts is never a Divine hand. Yet, God is not absent from any situation, and it is in order to look for his supportive and healing hand even in the midst of an abusive situation. But this is a long way from thinking of abuse as either the will or the work of the Lord.

Seventh: Won’t praying solve the problem?

  • Sometimes well-meaning pastors and friends offer this advice to persons who are suffering from abuse or who are being abusive. Prayer is always in order, but it may not be in order to urge harder and more persistent prayer in an abusive situation. This will serve to increase the guilt that the abused person has already. “If my prayer life were what it should be, or were I not guilty of other failures (or the failures I am abused for), this would not be happening to me.”

Eighth: I have been so abusive (or abused) that there is no forgiveness. There is no God for me!

  • God forgives ALL sin! Full repentance, seeking God and accepting Him into your life, then following through in Christian fellowship and teaching (and even counseling) can lead to God’s forgiveness. And who are we to decide that we are not worthy of God’s healing grace when it is offered to us?

Ninth: Is self-respect compatible with humility?

  • The Bible values humility very highly. We are called to be humble in the presence of God and to have a humble spirit in our relationships with other human beings. It is not contrary to Christian teaching that we are of “infinite worth” (Matthew 10:29-31). It is very likely that the abuser in a situation has low self-regard for self. The right kind of self-respect will not allow one to degrade one’s own self in such a way.
    The abused will also have trouble with self-respect. Both the abused and the abuser bring into question the basic Biblical view of the high valuation which God places on each man.

Tenth: Is assertiveness compatible with love?

  • Assertiveness is defined as “inclined to listen, confident, positive.” Assertiveness is what allows us to confront a person with love; it involves respect of the other person balanced with respect for ourselves. It does not mean to pamper, cater to another person’s whims, or to allow the other person to degrade themselves. It does not mean to push the other person around, either. To love is to want what is best for the other person, and that best cannot be the hell that abusive behavior creates. I Timothy 6:13, 17 instructs us to “instruct with authority.” Being a Christian does not mean to be a doormat, nor does it mean to be aggressive and controlling. It means to assertively, with authority, love another person.

Be sure to read A Theological Perspective on Child Abuse ,  The Church Role in Child Abuse Issues , and Preach Christian Principles to an Abuse Victim????


Additional reading:



Characteristics of and lures used by child molesters

Characteristics of and lures used by child molesters

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath



  1. It never ceases to amaze me how some people want to use the scriptures as a device to achieve thier own means. When it comes to disciplining our children, the Bible never gave any of us permission under any condition to abuse another person in any manner. I know. I have been on both sides of the fence, and I know from experience that physical discipline is necessary, but it can do more harm than good when used inappropriately.
    I hear Proverbs 13:24 quoted a lot as an excuse for “disciplining” a child. Essentually, the scripture does not give us permission to harm our children. Quite the opposite. Jesus said that what we do to a child we do to Him, and if we harm one, it is better for us to have a huge rock tied around our neck and thrown into the deepest part of the ocean. Scripture does not give us permission to use a device such as a stick or other harsh and intimidating instrument to inflict harm on our children and then try to disquise it as discipline. That will not bring discipline, if anything, just the opposite.
    The so called “rod of correction” is a figurative term. The meaning of the word rod does mean stick or staff, such as the kind the shephards used in herding their sheep. However, the shephard never used it as a device to inflict pain. It was always used to tap the animal on the hip or shoulder to bring it back in with the rest of the herd. If the sheep was obstinate, a firmer tap was used, but a harsh strike was used as a last resort, and even then, it was never with the intent to cause harm to the animal. If the “rod of correction” were meant to be a punsihing device, David would never have written the passage in Psalms 23:4b -“Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” If a rod is meant to be a device to inflict harm and used only as punishment, how then can it be seen as a comfort to David, a man after God’s own heart?
    No doubt, corporal punishment is necessary sometimes, but a parent who uses it as a first or only resort will exasparate a child, and can end up with a bigger problem than if they didn’t do anything at all. Physical discipline of a child should be difficult and unpleasant. However, it should not be the primary or only statement a parent uses for correction.
    The exact wording of that passage in the KJV reads “He that spareth the rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” The rod is literally the stick of correction, a device used by the shephard to herd sheep. “Chasteneth” means to instruct, to correct, to discipline or chastise. “Betimes” means to seek early and earnestly; to break in, to pry in, hence to seek. As a parent this verse of scripture tells me that if I am to raise my children correctly, I should use the rod to nudge, push and steer before I use it to inflict pain. If we love our children the way Christ loves us as adults, we have to consider how He disciplines us. He always uses the harshest of punishment as a last resort. So should we when it comes to correcting our children.

    Comment by Marc — December 4, 2008 @ 12:37 am | Reply

  2. Marc, Thank you for your insightful comments. I hope you checked out the post CHILD ABUSE DEFINITIONS filed in the CHILD ABUSE folder on my site, I appreciate your visiting my site.

    Comment by carolyncholland — December 4, 2008 @ 4:43 am | Reply

  3. Abortion is the ultimate child abuse

    Comment by Colleen Kelly Spellecy — January 2, 2010 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these scriptures as a Christian who was abused by “Christians” (big followers of Dobson). It enrages me that so many people believe that you can’t be a good Christian parent unless you hurt your child. It is a lie from Satan and not many seem to counter it.

    Comment by Christina — February 27, 2010 @ 6:59 am | Reply

  5. Nowhere and no way should a big person hit a little person. Ever.

    Comment by jamie — April 1, 2011 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

  6. Nowhere should a big person ever hit a smaller person. Ever.

    Comment by jamie — April 1, 2011 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  7. I write about Child sexual abuse, and overcoming emotional abuse on my blog. I appreciate the Q and A here. Many people ask me questions that I answer on my blog as well. There are some other direct scriptures on child sexual abuse in the bible, I see you have a lot of hits to your site. Congratulations! I’m still figuring out how to share the message. Bless you, Res

    Comment by Ressurrection — January 21, 2012 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  8. Outstanding. I agree.

    Comment by Jose — June 10, 2013 @ 5:45 am | Reply

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