The recent fiasco surrounding Creflo Dollar and the charges of battery for possibly choking and hitting his daughter (go here) have created a firestorm on numerous blogs and social media websites. The issues of abuse, the decency of discipline in the home, and what it means to be a good parent have become talking points for various people-non believer and believer. Spending the weekend at home, I had the fortunate blessing of talking about it with my Mom. We have talked in the past about discipline, child abuse, and thing such as this at length. If there’s one thing I know to be true about my Mom, it is that she is a “Momma Bear” when it comes to both her children, children in the Church who refer to her as “momma Chelle”, and any child she comes in contact with in her daily life. Many times she has expressed that she feels the Lord put her on this earth to be a mom, which is both a holy and difficult calling. Her sharpest rebukes, most loving desires to protect, and her most valiant displays of the “Jesus-turning-tables-over-in-the-temple” type of righteous anger are aimed at abuse- especially the abuse of people who cannot protect themselves. I decided to write out some thoughts and reflections on abuse and discipline within the home and thought it would be beneficial to include some words from someone who got discipline in the home right- my very own mother. She is a godly, gracious daughter of God who has some good things to say in my estimation. She currently serves at Cove Baptist Church as a Sunday school teacher for the middle/high school class.
Something the reader should know is that my mother was the disciplinary within the home. This seems odd for those look at Scripture, their particular raising, or even our culture. Why? She was the only person available. My father (Karl E. DeArmond) who would have fulfilled that role passed away from a battle with cancer when I was four (go here). Who was left but my mom? She kept the family alive with love, with strong leadership, and even with physical discipline. She thought it was necessary too. And, as I look back upon that, I think that was good and pleasing to the Lord. When asked about disciplining us and children today, my Mom responded with:
I think there needs to be discipline in the home. It teaches the children respect. If you don’t teach them respect at home, they are not going to learn it outside in the world. When all of my kids were little they did get whippings or spankings. We had a black belt and that’s what they were punished with. Of course I did not enjoy this, but I know that if I had not have disciplined them, they would have ended up being hoodlums like a lot of kids today. They had quite a few (italicized by me for emphasis…hehe) whippings and it has not traumatized them or made them not able to function in today’s world. I think it made them realize for all of their actions there would be a reaction because of it. It could be good or bad. They made that decision. I do feel like I was probably harder on my daughter. Why? Because I knew what a pain in the rear I was and I sure didn’t want her to be like me when I was young. I was a bad kid, but I also never had my tail tore up. I never really had any discipline at all and it took a while for me to grow up. I grew up when my first husband went to be with the Lord. You cannot wait until tragedy hits to learn how to be strong.
I wholeheartedly agree. I learned right and wrong, or at least I learned the consequences of obeying or disobeying right from wrong, from her not spoiling the child by sparing the rod (Prov. 13:24). I learned that my actions and what I do can have a real and tangible effect upon other people that I come in contact with on a day to day basis. My mother decided to use whippings and spankings to protect us from being full-fledged prodigals or self-righteous older brothers (Luke 15:11-32). Some would say she was wrong to do this? “It’s not love to spank your children.” But, with as much passion and rhetorical force I can say this with, I must write that she did this out of love; not a lack of it! Love is not only love for what it accepts but also what it rejects. If you love someone you not only want to actively lead them to the good wellsprings of joy but also actively lead them away from the pits of derision that make joy shrivel up. That sometimes requires a loving knock on the tail. Could she watch her children do things that would make us, in the long run, unhealthy and immature adults? No-she loved us! Could she let us spurn her God-given honor, role, and place within the home by flagrantly disobeying her desires and commands? No-she loved us! Could she stand idly by and watch us treat others, her, and ourselves in undignified, disrespectful, and inhumane ways? No-she loved us!
She did not raise us as believers. She was not one herself until latter down the road. Most of my immediate family became (No one is a Christian from birth!) believers later down the road. Despite that, she not only taught us basic morals that were in line with Scripture but also taught me something about the nature of God. This is definitely something gained from reflection done years down the road. But, nevertheless, I understand certain things about God because of the loving discipline she gave us. When I read passages about God’s anger, his wrath, his just punishment, and his doling out of discipline, I immediately think of my mom’s discipline. She did not do it for lack of love. God does not discipline for lack of love either. Hebrews 12 says:
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 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? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 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. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
I come to passages like this one not with a belligerent, abusive jerk ready to beat the Hell out of me in my mind. I come to passages like this one with someone, who with tears within her, disciplined me for my ultimate good. Did I enjoy it at the time? Of course not! Do I look back now as a man who sometimes has his stuff together and rejoice, of course I do. I have a referent within my own experience when I go to passages of the Bible and see God’s anger. I know very important things about the Lord today because my Mom did not withhold this type of love. With a little regret, my Mom goes on to say:
My kids laugh today because if they were not bleeding to death or have a bone stuck out, there wasn’t a lot of petting. Secretly, I wish now that I would have petted them a little more. My reasoning for that was because I didn’t want them to be weak or babied. The world would swallow them whole. I wanted them to be tough and be able to handle whatever was put before them.
Again, I think she is right. Parents need to discipline their children (whatever is appropriate to the child and household) to better equip them for the harsh and hard realities of life. I disagree with her assessment a little (I was petted enough) but I understand her reasoning. Parents have a God-ordained mission. God gives you children by his grace and for his glory. The goal of biblical parenting is not to help your children get into Harvard, be a great athlete, go on awesome dates, have a great career, or make a lot of money. The goal of biblical parenting is to help your children understand, love, and cherish God above all things (Deut. 6:1-6) and also to accomplish a great commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Parents are given the task of teaching, showing, and sharing the Word so their children love the Lord. Parents are to discipline their children with love that leads them to God, not with anger that leads them away from God. Concerning abuse of children, she says:
As far as parents abusing their children when it comes to discipline, it sadly happens all the time. It’s not right and they should be locked up and have the key thrown away. You can discipline your children without hurting them. They are gifts, little treasures from God. They were given to us to love and to take care of not to use as punching bags or slaves. The abusers may say they still love them, but anyone who abuses their children has forsaken love. Love is kind and love is gentle.
Again, she is right on the money. Children are a blessing from God (Psa. 127:3). They belong to God himself; parents merely take care of what is loaned to them. They are co-owners. Because of that, people who abuse their children or children in general should beware. Jesus Christ loves the little children- he said let them all come to him (Mark 10:13-16; Matt. 19:13-15). Every type…black children, handicapped children, children in the womb, every kind you can think of. When Jesus Christ asked little children to come to him, he didn’t say only rich children, or White children, or children with two-parent families, or children without a mental or physical handicap. He said “Let ALL the children come unto me! People who abuse children are not messing with someone who is a feeble, old grandfather in the sky but someone who is an untamable lion with all omnipotence, wrath, and justice. Beloved, it would be better for the abuser to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea than to cause harm to little ones Jesus cares so much for. May the Church always stand up for those who are helpless and cannot defend themselves.