>The issue of child abuse is a concern that is universal. Parents, government, schools, and churches are concerned that children be protected from abuse. According to recent statistics, more that 3 million children are abused every year.
The problem that many people face is defining child abuse. This confusion is expressed by an opinion published in the Springfield News-Leader, of Springfield, Missouri. The person who wrote the opinion said:
To one writer, child abuse is practiced by Christians who obey Old Testament injunctions to “spare the rod and spoil the child” and if California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-San Francisco, has her way there will be a law prohibiting parental spanking of children younger than 4. Spanking will then be a crime punishable by fines or time in the pokey. And, you know that — often — what is settled in Sacramento ultimately wends its way throughout the rest of the nation.
Child abuse is an act that places the life of a child in danger. Child abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Physical abuse comes out of violence against a child and causes bodily injury. Emotional abuse is attitude and behavior that affect the mental development of a child. Sexual abuse is any sexual approach between an adult and a minor.
But, is spanking a child a form of child abuse and a crime punishable by time in prison? Parents have a right to discipline their children and that right includes spanking. However, parents must be very careful because the use of force to discipline a child can inflict pain and cause injury.
There is a difference between spanking for the purpose of correction and beating as a form of punishment. When punishment gets out of control, then it ceases to be an act of discipline and it becomes an act of physical abuse.
Are Christians who obey the Old Testament injunction to “spare the rod and spoil the child” guilty of anything? The answer is “no!”
The answer is “no” because Christians will never obey the Old Testament injunction to “spare the rod and spoil the child” since such an injunction is not in the Old Testament.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary