CHILD ABUSE AND SCRIPTURE
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.