Your E-mails: January 2022

In issue 1650 you asked the question ‘Does the Bible encourage violence?’ Yes it does. Proverbs 23:13: ‘Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.’ The Bible encourages violence against children!

Ed

WHY IS IT THAT parents and carers— those who should be looking after children—become violent towards them? There may be various reasons. Life can be stressful, and sometimes people will vent their frustration on their children (because they’re an easy target). Children can be exasperating and can drive their parents to lash out at them. There are some people who simply take satisfaction in bullying those who cannot retaliate. Whatever the reason, violence against children is always horrible.

The Bible advocates physical discipline. (Often this is known by the general term ‘smacking’.) This is entirely different from violence, and it is unhelpful when the two are confused.

Children have certain fundamental needs. Among these are the need to feel safe, and the need to know that they are loved unconditionally. Another fundamental need is to know the boundaries of behaviour: this is essential for social development (not to mention spiritual development). In order to be able to operate in a family or any other social environment, we need to know what is right and wrong, and the earlier in life we learn these standards the easier our experience will be. The fact is that for some children at least, physical discipline is a very good way of learning. Whether or not you like this, we have it on the authority of our Creator: ‘Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him’ (Proverbs 22:15).

Physical discipline is not an adult lashing out in anger or frustration. It is not administered in order to make the adult feel better. Its purpose is not to dominate or humiliate the child. If any of these are the case, then it might justifiably be termed violence. Physical discipline is the measured and consistent enforcement of rules.

When a parent disciplines a child they are following the example of God, Who is a father to His children. The letter to the Hebrews contains encouragement for First Century Christians who were enduring trials in their lives: It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:7–11).