A recent CBS evening news segment really upset me. It seems there is a Christian based community in northern Vermont that, among its other beliefs, practices severe discipline of children, justifying their position by quoting portions of the Bible such as, "Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from sheol" (Proverbs 23:138r,14). These Scriptures, in their hands, have led to the awful conclusion of brutality so severe (and un-Christ-like) that one of the church elders is up on charges of beating a child for over seven straight hours. This is sick and has nothing to do with true Biblical Christianity. Now, I'll be the first to agree with the fact that discipline, loving discipline, needs to be administered to our children, for this is part of our commitment to them. If we really do love our children, we will be firm with guidelines and we will not shirk our parental responsibility of discipline when it is called for. Although this group quotes the Bible to defend themselves, what they are really doing is selectively choosing the Scriptures which appeal to their own beliefs, and at the same time ignoring the other Scriptures which would balance out or even contradict their treatment of children. This type of poor handling of the Word of God goes on all the time. True Christians are exhorted to "handle accurately the word of truth," and to "study to show thyself approved unto God." This means that before you concoct some strange doctrine about justifiable child abuse, you must first read all that the Bible has to say on the subject and then, and only then, do you draw a conclusion. Any other approach to Scripture will surely lead to error. Just look at Church history. The inquisitions, periodic persecutions and slaughters of the Jews, the current war in Ireland between Catholic and Protestant, Jim Jones' Guyana mass suicide; each of these tragedies carries a common denominator of irresponsible and selfish handling of the Bible. And, oh how the media loves to point its finger at these types of situations. If your only source of information about Christianity was time Magazine or the network news, you would conclude that all Christians were demented souls who equally divided their time between beating children, burning record albums, and occasionally holing up in some house waiting for the Second Coming. Today's media believes the unspoken yet constantly affirmed "religion" of humanism which is quick to trash Christianity, but will save the whales while it advocates free abortion to all. You won't find many page one stories about the millions of true Christians who devotedly give their lives in service to their fellow man, because in the secular press's mentality, that would be advocating a specific religion, which of course they say they cannot do. So in this twisted frame of mind, all in the name of fairness, Christianity can never be applauded, but on the other hand it is constantly open to putdown and criticism, such as in this case of child abuse. Now to be sure, a situation like this one is reprehensible and deserves to get the full scrutiny of all. The Bible actually says that judgment begins first with the household of God. This is why it is so important that we, who claim Christianity as our life, make doubly sure that any position at all which we adopt is firmly and fully based upon the whole weight of Scripture. For instance, if you really care about what the Bible says on the subject of children you would have to also consider these verses: "Love is patient, love is kind, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered," "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control," and "Fathers do not exasperate your children that they may not lose heart." You see, a proper and honest handling of Scripture will prevent you from just quickly grabbing a few choice verses to shore up your own personality traits or doctrines, and you would never be able to come to a conclusion of such severe discipline of children. Moreover, anyone who is a true follower of Jesus simply could not treat a child in such a way, because it would be totally inconsistent with the nature of Christ and the heart of God. Once you remove the heart of God from the Word of God, then you no longer have the Word of God. You have, instead, what the Apostle Paul referred to as "the letter of the word" which he said kills. It is the spirit, or heart, of the word which gives life. I'm sure you could prove just about anything you wanted from the Bible if you were selectively choosing your verses instead of reverently and respectfully handling accurately the Word of God. As an extreme example, a person could take the two phrases "Judas went and hanged himself" and "go thou and do likewise" and you can see the off-the-wall conclusion that would lead you to! What is at the heart of the matter here is the issue of personal yieldedness to the Lordship of Christ. Instead of coming out swinging at your children, maybe you should be on your knees confessing your own sin of anger or lack of patience, or over-reaction or self-centeredness. The Bible says that children are a precious gift of God and should therefore be treated as such. I know that when it comes to disciplining my own little boy, I have to first stop and check out my own heart with God and make sure that it's the Spirit and not my ego that is in control. I am told that Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher and atheist, grew up in a strict so-called "Christian" environment where regular and severe discipline was handed out by his minister father. What a terrible image of God to have planted in a young mind! The world is full of such stories. Scratch the surface of your average atheist and you'll uncover some negative experience at an early age which totally turned the individual off to Christianity. My Bible tells me that God is love. I want to make sure that in what I say and do that it is love, real straight from the heart, understanding and compassionate love, that is being expressed. One of the Scriptures that severe disciplinarians frequently refer to is Proverbs 22:6 which says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." I think these people would do well to really consider what this verse is saying. They may come to the unpleasant conclusion that what they assumed was the path to God through strong beatings was, in fact, the path to a future separation from God and family. Yes, it may be unpleasant to admit a wrong handling of the Bible and a wrong heart attitude, but it would be far better to admit it now, while there is still time, than at some future date when no amount of tears and pleading for forgiveness will be able to undo the damage and destruction of their violence. - lovinggrace.org amen and amen! God bless the little children!