By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
The stories of child abuse are all too common in today’s news. Whether physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse, the allegations are far too frequent. Many times, children have been viewed as an inconvenience. They too often have been told they were to be seen and not heard or that they were to be beaten to teach obedience. With the high statistics, many are left wondering, Is God okay with abusing children? No. Categorically, no! God delights in children, and the Bible has much to say about His heart for precious little ones. We need to realign our hearts with God’s in our view of children. What does the Bible say about child abuse? Let’s take a look.
Does the Bible Talk about How We Should Treat Children?
The Psalmist wrote that children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him (Psalm 127:3 NLT). God forms each child in the womb and considers each one a gift designed with a purpose. Rather than viewing children as an inconvenience, we are to view them through God’s eyes as treasures. We are to cherish and value them.
In another scripture, the Psalmist writes, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13-14). Each child was crafted and designed intentionally by God. He chose their hair color, their eye color, and their personality. What a wonder! Too often, parents view the child who has a strong will as a “problem child.” But what if God designed that child with a strong will because He needs strong leaders in the world? What if the lion within that child is actually a gift? Too often, people have advised, “break their will.” That is not from God. He designed them with a will. His desire is for their will to be shaped around His plans for their life. That shaping must happen with grace and gentleness.
The Apostle Paul wrote about family life, instructing, “children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1) But, he went on to write that Fathers were not to exasperate their children (Ephesians 6:4). Children become exasperated when they are over-corrected or dealt with harshly. The deeper the connection with their parents, often the more willing the child is to obey.
What Does the Bible Say about Child Abuse?
In Matthew 18, the disciples came to Jesus and asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In answering them, Jesus called a little child to Himself. He said that each of us must become like little children in order to even enter the kingdom of heaven. In other words, our faith is to be innocent and childlike. Jesus then went on to say that “whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5). In other words, our hearts are always to be open towards children welcoming and treasuring them. What follows is a stern warning for those who hurt children.
Jesus continued the conversation and said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). That is a very strong statement! It reminds us that those who beat children, sexually abuse children, or verbally abuse children will one day face the justice of God. They will be held accountable. Having said that, if they repent and ask God’s forgiveness, there is always grace from the Father.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/JW
3 Ways to Help Children Who Are Being Abused
Report and Confront. As believers, we always want to offer grace. This may make us hesitant to report a situation where a child is being abused. That is a mistake. Churches have too often swept allegations of child abuse under the carpet, hoping it will just go away. It never does without confrontation and reporting. Reporting a situation of abuse may actually save a child’s life. If CPS gets involved, it could serve as a wake-up call for parents, or childcare workers, that there needs to be a change and that God takes child abuse seriously. God is able to go before that child even if they are pulled out of an abusive home. He is the one who sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).
A special word to pastors, counselors, and teachers. In most states, you are under a mandatory obligation to report any suspected child abuse. Be sure to check the laws in your state. In addition, it’s very important, whether in churches, mission organizations, schools, or any youth program to run background checks on anyone serving in these capacities. We are to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). Part of being wise is knowing the laws in your State and running background checks.
Get Involved. Many churches are taking up the mantle of ministry for foster care kids and kids who are up for adoption. Not everyone has the capacity to take a child in their home, but there are other ways you can get involved. If you know of a family who has just received foster kids, they likely need help. When a child is pulled out of the home, they are not allowed to bring anything with them. They likely need pajamas, a stuffed animal for comfort, a toothbrush, and a change of clothes. Figure out who in your church community is involved in foster care or adoption and get to know them. Ask them for practical ways you can help.
Become familiar with www.CarePortal.org. This is an online platform that helps you to connect with kids and their needs. The CarePortal system helps foster families as well as prevents some kids from being removed from their homes due to poverty. Many churches are using the CarePortal platform to mobilize people to meet needs in their communities. Throughout the scriptures, we see that God’s heart is always with the orphan. Some might be orphaned because their parents have died, but some might be orphaned because they were pulled from an abusive home. The church is called to respond and help care for these little ones (James 1:27). In this present age, the orphan crisis is staggering. As followers of Jesus, we can’t afford to close our eyes. We must answer the call to care for these precious little ones who are so often forgotten by society.
Pray. When the people of God become intentional about intercession, dark strongholds are broken. I believe that God is looking for men and women who will stand in the gap with their prayers on behalf of children (Ezekiel 22:30). There is no limit to what God will do through the prayers of His people. I believe at this hour in history, we, as God’s people, need to rise up and intercede on behalf of children who are being abused. We can fight on behalf of children using the weapon of prayer, which has the power to “demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). I believe too often we get lulled into lethargy, and we fail to use the weapons of warfare we’ve been given. When the church begins to pray intentionally for the protection of children in their communities and neighborhoods, we’re going to see instances of child abuse drop.
While this topic of child abuse is difficult, it’s essential that we, as believers, wake up. The statistics of abuse are very high. I myself was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused as a child. Whenever I speak on this topic, the amount of those in the audience who have been abused is staggering. The church must no longer stay silent. God hates child abuse in every form. He wants little ones to know that Jesus loves them and considers them precious. If you know of any child being abused, please report it! If you suspect something, say something and confront the situation. In addition, get involved. Figure out practical ways you can help by investigating agencies available to help children in your area. Finally, pray! Take pray walks around your community and pray for the children who live there. God’s heart is with children, and the Bible clearly teaches against child abuse.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fiorigianluigi
Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books, including Our Father, Psalms for the Anxious Heart, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling