We’ve had our dog for several years now, and with the exception of a few minor slips here and there, she’s quite well behaved.
So much so, in fact, that she gives Denver the Dog a run for his money if she ever does something she’s not supposed to do.
That obedience took at least a year of patient training, and yes—discipline. She knows she’s not allowed to sit on the couch with us if she’s been naughty; she knows she’ll get scolded if we catch her doing something wrong.
Here’s the deal. If a little dog needs structure, order, and sometimes discipline to learn—imagine what it takes to rear a child in the way he or she should behave.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, discipline is a big part of the picture. And yes, the kind of discipline matters.
Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers on October 13, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Panthers defeated the Vikings 35-10. Credit: Getty Images
Football in my home state has been marred recently with the heinous behavior of Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, who—by all accounts—took the concept of “spanking” and shot it through the stratosphere when he actually beat his 4-year-old child.
Adrian Peterson abused his son.
Some people, like CNN religion opinion writer Matthew Paul Turner, linked Peterson's abusive action to a devotional page he tweeted out, insinuating that he was trying to justify his abuse with Biblical text (even though the text had nothing to do with discipline or child-rearing).
I don’t know where Peterson stands on faith, and it is irrelevant. Peterson abused his child, and Peterson must face the consequences.
I’m not here to talk about Adrian Peterson per se. I’m here to talk about Matthew Paul Turner who devoted his piece to making the case that the Bible not only allows, but calls for abuse.
Turner’s piece is egregious on three counts.
First, Turner took an already complex situation that has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity and inserted a religious debate into the mix—further muddying the waters and distracting from the real problem: what Adrian Peterson did was not “spanking.” Adrian Peterson abused his son. Period.
Second, Turner declared that Biblical teachings condone child abuse.
Third, he managed to do what many have feared would happen: turn this into a debate about what rights, if any, parents really have to raise their children as they see fit (within the law).
The first is self explanatory. We need to look at this like it is: a case in which a father beat his child. That’s all.
As for the second, let’s explore Proverbs 13:24 from which the offending reference to spanking stems:
"Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."
(There’s also Proverbs 23:13-14, in the same vein.)
Meaning, if you don’t discipline your child, you don’t really love and care for him/her because you’re unconcerned about his/her life ahead.
Today, when we hear the words “rod,” “beaten,” or the like, it means abuse. In that period of time, the meaning of those words simply encompassed “physical” punishment of some nature. It was the vernacular of the day.
Moreover, as the "People’s Bible" commentary notes, “while the ‘rod of correction’ can include spanking when called for, it can also refer to verbal correction. It does not include child abuse.”
Discipline, especially (appropriate) corporal punishment, quickly corrects a child and internalizes the concept, so that eventually they become self-disciplined. It is not unlike pulling back quickly on the leash of a dog to redirect his path.
God draws a clear line regarding the difference between correction and abuse. Consider this admonishment to fathers about how they treat their children:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
Punishment as outlined in the Bible is never to be carried out in anger. It is to be carried out calmly, and only with the loving intent to protect the child from his or her own tendency towards disobedience.
The People’s Bible commentary further notes that “Christian parents will exhibit ‘the fruit of the Spirit,’ which is ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22,23)”
Abuse like that afflicted by Adrian Peterson on his young son does not internalize discipline, it instead instills anger. It is wrong, and it is a perversion of the type of loving discipline (followed by reassurance and forgiveness) that the Bible teaches.
In Turner’s mind, “Christian spanking is about parents wanting to wield control, instill their values and put children in their place when they question their parent’s authority.”
Turner is exactly right. Christian discipline is indeed about wielding control over their child to serve two purposes: to instill a certain set of values about life (both earthly and heavenly) in them, and guide them along the path towards safe, successful adulthood.
Imagine if no parent controlled their child’s unrelenting tendency to disobey.
To be perfectly frank, we’d have a lot of dead children, and unruly citizens.
Parents are not state-assigned representatives meant to look after a couple of kids. Parents are a vital and integral part of any child’s life, and they represent the very first figures of authority with which children come into contact.
So yes, unless that parent is someone like Adrian Peterson—who clearly broke not only God’s law, but also our society’s laws—a child is to respect and obey his or her parents’ authority.
In this Sept. 7, 2014, file photo, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson warms up for an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. The Vikings benched Peterson for Sunday's game after his attorney said he had been indicted by a Texas grand jury on a charge of child abuse. Attorney Rusty Hardin says the charge accuses Peterson of using a branch, or switch, to spank his son. He says Peterson has cooperated with authorities and "used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son." Hardin says Peterson regrets the incident but never intended to harm the boy. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)
What Turner either failed to or refused to do, I will explain here: ceremonial and civil laws of the Old Testament (i.e. Leviticus) were reserved for that time, for that nation, and to serve a very express purpose--to point to the perfect obedience required to enter heaven, and the Savior all people would need.
It was to impress the seriousness of sin’s consequences for one’s eternal soul.
For Turner to reference Leviticus 20 in this context to discredit other portions of Scripture, such as the book of Proverbs (meant to serve as a book of wisdom), is intellectually dishonest.
Let’s get a few things crystal clear: Adrian Peterson abused his son. Abuse is never, ever condoned in the Bible.
And God is even more saddened by Peterson’s young son’s suffering than we are.
Imagine if more people in this world approached discipline like God’s Word prescribes: loving, caring admonishment coupled with true forgiveness and encouragement.
Imagine if more of our children were raised into loving adults who would never dream of doing what Adrian Peterson did.
Mary Ramirez is a full time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com – a political commentary blog, and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
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