There is a saying of Ahiqar, a sage from Assyria that is often misunderstood to come from the Bible; Ahiqar says that to "spare the rod is to spoil the child." The Assyrians captured Israel and took the people into slavery in 722 and 724 BCE; this marked the end of the region of the Northern tribes which in the time of Jesus were known as Sumeria; the region from which the Samaritans came.
There is a similar saying in Proverbs; Proverbs 13:24 -
24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.Many argue that this means that Christians should be allowed to practice corporal punishment but in a ruling of the Supreme Court this past week Justice Mogeong Mogeong ruled that spanking crossed the line of violence:
“The right to be free from all forms of violence or to be treated with dignity speaks quite forcefully against the preservation of the common law defence of reasonable and moderate parental chastisement...”Unfortunately the common law defence of 'reasonable and moderate parental chastisement' is a loophole that many have used in an attempt to get out of convictions of child abuse. The case that gave rise to the appeal to the constitutional court was one where a father was found guilty of assault in that he had beaten and kicked his child for allegedly watching porn.
Jesus clearly teaches us to resolve our conflicts in non-violent ways:
If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. - Matthew 5:39Through his example we learn that we can become disciplined by following an example rather than by being threatened with violence and retribution. Discipline or self-control is in fact a fruit of the Holy Spirit and of knowing the love of God:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23In a violent world we are called to be people of peace; and I believe that as Christians we should celebrate this ruling of the constitutional court that will protect children from violence and abuse.
The only problem is; all we have is hammers and everything looks like nails. We've learnt through our culture; through our sayings, and sometimes through church that the most effective way of teaching our children to behave is through the promise of bodily punishment. Those of us who are parents know that we are often at our wits end when it comes to teaching our children to behave well. As outsiders each of us think we know best how to teach children to behave because we think that the strategies that worked with our children (or us) should be universally applicable.
But God created each of us as very unique; we each have different needs and different struggles. If we take the time to understand each other - especially our children; we might find ways to help them to be the people we know they can be.
I often wish that my kids came with an instruction book but they didn't. At times I've been really bad at disciplining them; sometimes too strict and sometimes too soft. Some of the strategies I've tried have not been helpful at all. I'm still working on it.
As a minister I'd like to say that even though there are Christian groups that seem quite enraged by the ruling that we shouldn't physically punish our children I would like to stand on the side of those who say yes; this is right. It is not the easiest route; but I've too often seen where violence ends and I believe that Jesus has shown us a better way. As parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends I think we should work out more positive ways to help our kids.
Recently Heather (my wife) went on a 'Peace Discipline' course at school. The non-violent and helpful strategies and ways of working with our kids that she learnt has helped us a lot. Let's help each other on this journey; I think Jesus would be pleased.
I look forward to worshipping with you at 845am and 11am this Sunday.