With child abuse in the news concerning immigrant children, I thought it a good idea to reflect on the causes of child abuse. Psychologists, psychiatrists, law officials, welfare department officials, and the courts are working on the problem of child abuse daily. They examine child abuse from a social perspective while ignoring the spiritual perspective. I believe child abuse stems from spiritual problems that mankind overlooks.
The Breakdown of the Family
Much of the child abuse is from step-fathers and live-in lovers. Child abuse is a consequence of the deterioration of the family. A society cannot ignore the divine commandments regarding the marriage relationship without paying the price for breaking it. God ordained that marriage be a lifetime commitment (Gen 2:24 f; Matt 19:4-8). Marriage is only terminated by fornication and death itself (Matt 19:9 f; 1 Cor 7:39). The stable family relationship is the God-appointed environment for rearing children.
Parents who change mates like they change clothes, bringing in someone who has never bonded with the children, create the situation in which child abuse is likely to occur. The “natural affection” which should exist between parent and child is not present (Rom. 1:31).
We can greatly reduce child abuse by mothers and fathers keeping their marital vows to one another and keeping the home intact. As parents who love one another, we can rear our children in an atmosphere of love, not in an environment of child abuse.
Victims Become Abusers
Child abuse is a learned behavior. Children mimic their parents. A child who has been a victim of child abuse in his youth is a potential child abuser. The Scriptures state that the learned habit of sin is passed down from one generation to another (“visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20:4). There are second and third generation child abusers prevalent among us. The patterns of conduct learned from the parent are followed by the children and passed down to their children. We can prevent child abuse by being good parents. Let our children see in us a good example of parental conduct and child abuse will decrease.
The Scriptures prescribe the conduct of parents toward children: “And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they are discouraged” (Col. 3:20). Verbal abuse would end when parents put away from their lives “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking” (Eph. 4:31).
Homosexual and Lesbian Parents
It is difficult to miss that child abuse has increased among heterosexual parents but nearly nonexistent among gay and lesbian parents. This is because such parents do not correct their children in the biblical way that society defines as abuse. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Prov 22:15). “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Prov 23:13-14). Whenever we fail to correct our children we are in effect abusing them.
According to the scriptures, when we train up a child correctly, they will not depart from it their whole life through (Prov 22:6). Is not society allowing children to be trained to be LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual), or tolerant of such, by the examples set before them? This is spiritual child abuse!
It is also noteworthy that ungodly parents are training up their children to deny God’s existence and to be a heartless generation. This too is child abuse in the spiritual realm.
A Spiritual Problem
Child abuse occurs because of distinctly spiritual problems which cannot be cured by government programs and organizations. Being a spiritual problem, a spiritual cure is necessary to change the hearts of men and women.
The influence of the gospel on society has always been wholesome. The gospel, even when it does not convert the world, leavens the society in which it is prevalent. As a society becomes more secular, removing God from its classroom and other public forums, the leavening influence of the gospel is methodically eradicated. We can expect more and more social problems to occur, stemming from people who have little or no commitment to live by the ethical standards revealed by God. What a price we pay for leaving God out of our lives!
It is difficult for right thinking people to comprehend the thought of an adult harming a young and helpless child. Social agencies are inundated with investigations of child molestation and endangerment cases. Children are frequently removed from the custody of their biological parents, to be placed in an environment thought suitable for normal development. These are alarming indicators of the value society places on children, and on life itself. However, child abuse is not limited to the dysfunctional misfits of the world but is alive and well among believers. Not necessarily physical endangerment and molestation, but rather spiritual child abuse.
Parents breed rebellion when they do not instruct their children to submit to God and require them to respect others. Manifestations of this include, parents permitting their children to rule the home by catering to their every whim, disrespect of teachers, disrespect of adults and disrespect of civil authority. All of which is disrespectful (a sin against) of God’s authority. As adults, these children will have difficulty until they learn to respect authority; whether in the workplace, government, or church. Parents instruct their children in the way of rebellion by poor example by telling them to respect authority, yet demonstrating contempt for God’s authority by refusing to submit to the elders of the church (Heb 13:7), speaking evil of civil authorities (2 Pet 2:20 f; Tit 3:1), and not submitting to one another (Eph 5:21). All of which sends mixed signals. What’s the difference between this and physical child abuse? When you observe out of control children, you are seeing a miniature version of out of control parents. When parents refuse their God-given role to take charge, keep their children under control, and make them obey and respect others, they are sinning.
We are all appalled by the reports of children being physically abused. Are we as equally concerned about spiritual child abuse? Are we concerned enough to modify our actions, and help others too? Parents and grandparents must wake up to the fact that the effects of spiritual child abuse last far longer than physical abuse, and that both are equally deplorable.
Conclusion: In Washington D.C., there are calls from both sides of the aisle to end child separation among illegal immigrants. I would agree that the child should not be punished for the crimes of the parents (Ex 18:20). Stop illegal immigration but don’t abuse children in the process should be the solution.
I am also aware that there are physical and sexual abuse of Children in our society which not only is a crime but is a grave sin. However, the greatest form of child abuse is spiritual child abuse.
I am acutely aware of child abuse by biological parents. More often than not, these are non-Christian families who live riotous lives. However, a Christian family has been proven to be the best place to rear children throughout the ages. They correct their children appropriately when they do wrong. They teach them the ways of God, morally and spiritually, according to the scriptures. They show them by examples how to be future parents by their moral values. Adulterous marriages, gay and lesbian marriages, and fornicators are havens for child abuse. “Train up a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6).