Should We Take The Bible Literally?

 

Once again I found myself dealing with a Christian pro-spanker that insists that the “rod verses” in the book of Proverbs must be taken literally.  Yet, when I asked the following questions, the pro-spanker couldn’t answer:

*If we must spank/hit our children then shouldn’t we also stone people, cut off body parts, pluck eyes out?

*And what about slavery?  Shouldn’t we continue to keep slaves?

*Shouldn’t we also sacrifice animals for our sins?

People pick and choose what to take literally. It makes no sense to take a few verses literally to justify spanking/hitting children but not other harsh verses.

The Bible was written for us, not to us. As I have said many times, we must seek to understand the historical and cultural context of Scripture.  We must also study the original languages of the Bible to truly understand what it’s saying and how to apply it to us.

Not every Scripture is meant to be directly applied to us!  We are to learn from all Scripture, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, we do not need to directly apply every single Scripture to our lives.  To do so is to downplay what Jesus did for all of humanity on the cross!

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, NASB).

After a while, the pro-spanker tried to answer the questions above by saying that we no longer live under the Law, but rather, we live under grace.

Exactly!  And this grace applies to children as well.  Jesus freed us from the Law.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).

When we spank, we are parenting under the Law. We are not accepting the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus died for us. He was beaten to a bloody pulp for us. Why do we feel we must beat, spank, and hit our young children who do not understand sin nor physical punishment?

“In regard to evil be infants” (1 Corinthians 14:20b).

If we are to interpret all of the “rod” verses that appear to advocate spanking/hitting children with a large weapon with spikes on it literally, then we must take all of the other harsh verses in the Bible literally.  Who are we to apply only a handful of verses to inflict pain on children but not do everything else in the Bible?

After all, the Bible also says:

“Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts” (Proverbs 20:30, NASB).

I truly do not believe that God wanted us to take the entire Bible literally.  Rather, we are to see how God redeemed His people.  The Bible is meant to be read in a redemption manner.

For more information about how to interpret the “rod verses” in Proverbs, please click here.

Finally, as Christ-followers should easily realize that all the verses telling us to be kind, merciful, graceful, gentle, peaceful, loving, forgiving, and patient with one another apply to children too. Jesus is our example!

In fact, Ephesians 5:1-2 says,

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

So to imitate God is to walk in love, not hurt each other. And the fruit of the Spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, *gentleness,* self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

I will end with two final verses.

For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

God favors mercy over judgement.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance, not fear and pain.  This is what we should take literally!

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Using Agape Love To Parent

Agape love is basically having unconditional love for all people. God loves us with agape love as He sacrificed Himself as Jesus for our sins.  He also had to watch His Son suffer and die.  Agape love is the best way to describe God since God is love (1 John 4:8).

But do Christians show agape love to others, especially their children?  In my experience, they often do not. They insist on condemning others and punishing their children.

Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect.  I struggle at times to love people how God wants me to do so.  I get hurt, offended, and judgemental.  Thankfully, God lovingly corrects me when I mess up.  He loves me with agape love.

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Sadly, most devotionals for children teach that they must be punished for their sins. So do the child-rearing books by popular “Christian child-rearing experts” such as James Dobson, Michael Pearl, Ted Tripp, and Roy Lessin.  How is this teaching children about agape love that God has for them?  Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins, including children!

Obviously, these Christian advocates of spanking do not understand God’s unconditional love for us. Due to adults’ sinful nature, we struggle with practicing agape love.  Sometimes it is easier to condemn, spank/hit, yell, or ignore our children.  But the Bible says:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1, NASB).

This means getting up at 2am to care for the baby instead of letting him/her cry-it-out.

This means redirecting our toddlers for the 20th time away from something we don’t want them to play with and telling them what they can do rather than yelling at them and/or smacking their hand because they won’t listen and we’re sick of redirecting them.

This means sitting on the floor while our young children have a meltdown over a limit we’ve set and validating their feelings over the limit that they don’t like.

Finally, parenting with agape love means taking the time to truly listen to our children so that they will want to come to us when they are in trouble.

Yes, we will make mistakes, but when we do, agape love allows us to be humble and apologize to our children.

I am well aware that some Christians will read this and say, “Spanking is a part of what the Bible says about loving our children.”  If this is you, please read these posts.  And check out this book by theologian Samuel Martin.  It’s free!

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes exactly what agape love is.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (ESV).

There is nothing in the above verse that say spanking/hitting, using cry-it-out, or using other harsh punishment is a part of agape love.  If anything, it points to gentle firmness as agape love.

It may not always be easy but by parenting with agape love, we can show children God’s true character and teach them how to love others unconditionally.

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Withhold Use Of “The Rod” On Your Children To Truly Love Them

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24, NASB).

Many Christians misinterpret this verse to mean that they must spank/hit their children if they truly love them.  But, as with all of the “rod” verses in the book of Proverbs, this was never intended to be taken literally.  Let’s examine a few key points regarding why this verse means to teach and guide rather than to spank/hit children.

  1.  Shepherds never hit their sheep. Nor did they break their sheep’s legs when the sheep wandered away. Rather, shepherds used their rods to protect their sheep. If you injured a sheep and had to carry it around, that sheep as well as the entire herd, would be more vulnerable to predators. Using the rod against the predator protected the sheep.  Therefore, we are to use the rod to protect our children against our number one predator: satan!
  2. This leads us to the Hebrew word for “rod,” which is Shebet.  Yes, it was a big, heavy stick that was used in the Bible to strike people. But, the only people it was used to strike were adults in the Bible.  Not once was a child ever hit with the rod in the Bible. It would have killed the child.  Shebet is also symbolic of authority. It makes more sense that we are to use our authority to teach and guide children.
  3. Love doesn’t hurt. Or at least it shouldn’t!  God came down as Jesus to take the horrible punishment for all of humanity’s sins!  We now live in the age of grace!  Not once did Jesus mention using corporal punishment with children.  Yes, we are to discipline them as this verse clearly states. But inflicting physical pain does not constitute Biblical discipline.
  4. This is not a mandate from God to spank children in order to show love to them. Love and this type of pain never go together. What this is saying is that parents who love their children will discipline (teach and guide) children in a manner that will enable the children to thrive and will ultimately lead them to Christ. Spanking and permissive parenting do the exact opposite of what this verse is saying. Being hit or not being disciplined at all does not make children feel loved by their parents. Hurting children intentionally never accurately shows love for them. God does not intentionally hurt us to show His love for us as God is love. The Bible is also quite clear on what love is and is not.
  5. Interestingly, many use the saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” to try and summarize the above Proverb.  However, it is not in the Bible and comes from a seventeenth century poem dealing with sex.

Here is what the Bible tells us love is:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NASB).

It is quite obvious that according to the Bible as a whole, spanking/hitting does not fit into the definition of love.  Discipline your children to love them.  Use the rod against the enemy, not the children!

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Sacrifice And Love For Others–Especially Our Children

Romans 15:1-7:

“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

I think this Scripture is key in how we should interact with others, especially our children. It seems that many Christians are not willing to self-sacrifice for the betterment of others. If it’s not convenient for us, then we won’t sacrifice for others.

Guess what!  Being crucified on a cross was not convenient to Jesus, but because He loved us so much, He died a horrific death for us–His beloved children!

I think it’s beyond sad that many popular, mainstream “Christian child-rearing experts” actually discourage parents from self-sacrificing for their children. Instead of rearranging their lives to include children, these “experts” teach parents to force a new human being to fit within the parents’ lives so the child knows that he/she is not too important.

How is that obeying what God clearly lays out in the above Scripture?  Children are indeed weaker than us. They need constant care and guidance from us which should involve major self-sacrifice from us.

Leaving infants to cry-it-out so that we can get a good night’s sleep is not self-sacrificing nor is it accepting infants for who they are.

Staying up with them and engaging in nighttime parenting despite being absolutely exhausted is self-sacrificing and accepting them.

Spanking/hitting, using time-out, shaming, arbitrarily taking things away, yelling, and other harsh punishment with our children is not self-sacrificing or accepting children.

Doing the hard work of disciplining (teaching, guiding, correcting) using positive, respectful, and gentle techniques such as modeling, child-proofing, validating feelings, fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, setting realistic limits and boundaries, helping children comply, giving choices, and using natural and logical consequences with children is self-sacrificing and accepting of our children.

Most Christian claim that if they don’t spank/hit and “teach” their children that the world does not revolve around them that their children will turn into self-entitled brats.  Let me tell you this: Children learn by our actions. Some of the most self-entitled people I know grew up in punitive households where they were constantly “put in their places.”  Their parents were so focused on forcing their children into self-sacrifice that the children never truly learned how to sacrifice for the sake of others.

True love means being willing to sacrifice, accept, give grace and mercy for another no matter how inconvenient it is to us. We must model this to our children.

Biblical love does not involve inflicting pain on children as many Christians still believe due to errant interpretation of this verse:

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24, NASB).

In order to understand this, we need to understand that the Biblical Rod was a big, heavy stick with spikes on it. Shepherds never hit their own sheep with the rod. Rather, they used it to protect their sheep from predators. We need to do the same with our children. We need to sacrifice ourselves in order to protect our children from the enemy, satan, who comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

Biblical love is clearly defined as:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cornithians 13:4-7, ESV).

May we use self-sacrifice to truly love our children and everyone!

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When He (or in my case, She) Gets Old He Will Not Depart From It

“Train up a child in the way he should go,

Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Yesterday I learned just how true this is for me. I’ve always noticed it here and there with some of my actions and thoughts, but yesterday, it smacked me in the face.

 You see, it was discovered that a veterinarian we knew and had used had let things get way out of control and had lost her license in December of 2014 and was still practicing medicine with the animals in her home. Her clients were unaware of this. Then, this past weekend over 60 animals were removed from her home.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details as they are pretty gruesome. When my husband told me all this, I felt panic, anger, sadness, and confusion. And…I assumed the worst of this woman. I had trusted her with my fur babies from 2007-2009/2010, way before any of this, but I still had scary thoughts of what my cats may have witnessed or experienced while in her care.

My husband felt anger and was horrified initially, but was quickly able to move to having compassion for her based on what he knew of her when we used her. He didn’t think she was being malicious in any way and suspected an organic reason for her behavior such as mental illness or a brain tumor.

I, on the other hand, was slower to have compassion towards her. I wanted to believe she wasn’t some sadist vet. But, I assumed the worst of her. I thought she was horrible all along and we’d missed it. How could someone who loved animals so much treat them, operate on them, and keep them in deplorable conditions in her home?  My husband was under the impression that she had left them in her house in order to escape being caught by authorities, which made me even more upset. I cried on and off throughout the day that so many animals had suffered and even died in her care. I couldn’t believe I let her care for my sweet cats for a few years!

It wasn’t until last night that my husband’s suspicions were validated. The vet was not a sadist. She was honestly trying to help the animals. She had spent her whole savings to keep up practicing veterinary medicine. And she was living in these deplorable conditions with the animals. Mental illness is a part of this horrific situation.

I felt relief finding out that her motives were pure. I cried for her. I had been praying for her throughout the day yesterday, but was so angry at her. After the relief of finding out that she wasn’t trying to hurt any of the animals came the guilt of realizing just how wrong I had been for assuming the worst of her. I immediately asked God to forgive me which He did. Then I had to fight the lovely self loathing that I struggle with all the time, but especially struggle with when I mess up.

So, what makes me assume the worst of people?  I believe it’s the way I was trained as a child. No, my family did not purposely instill this in me. However, there were certain members of my family who would put on a facade to make themselves look better to outsiders than how they really were in private with me. I have had other people do this too. Sometimes I feel like I attract “fake” people.

Having to deal with this throughout my life has made me prone to go negative instead of positive when it comes to people, especially when bad things happen.

Children are constantly watching us even when we don’t think they are. Every little thing we do, say, or feel does not go unnoticed by our children.

Proverbs 22:6 is absolutely right in that how we are trained as children can be very difficult to undo as adults. BUT, thankfully, Proverbs 22:6 was never meant to be taken as a promise. We have the power in Christ to break free from the negative things by which we were trained. I know I will be working on not immediately assuming the worst when I am not aware of all the details of situations. I trust God will give me the grace to continuing on my journey to be more Christlike.

Please be intentional with your children as you help them grow and develop. Trust me, they are always watching!

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What is Proverbs 23:13-14 Actually Saying?

Do not hold back discipline from the child,
Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
You shall strike him with the rod
And rescue his soul from Sheol”
Proverbs 23:13-14 NASB

So many Christians believe this verse and the other “Rod” verses are to be taken literally. Some very watered down versions of the Bible even say to spank. But, if we were to take this literally, wouldn’t that make God a liar?

Let’s think about this.

1. The Hebrew word for rod is Shebet. It was a big heavy stick with spikes on it. Striking a small child with this instrument even gently would kill the child.

2. Sheol is the Hebrew word for death, not Hell, as many Christians believe. To say that spanking/hitting children will save them from Hell would discredit the horrible suffering and agony of what Christ did on the cross. All we would need to be saved from Hell would be a good beating. Yet, many reject God due to “loving spankings.”

3. Many children have physically died from spankings. This verse and the rest of the Bible does not give “rules” on how not to go too far. In fact, the King James Version of the Bible, which many fundamentalist Christians tout as the “only true version,” tells us to beat children with the rod.

Again, this would make God a liar to say that a child will not die if we beat her/him. God NEVER lies (“so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18, NASB)!

4. Even if children don’t physically die after being spanked/hit, an emotional/spiritual part of them does die and their brains are damaged. This is NOT good. This makes it harder for them to receive God’s grace.

5. Jesus said a lot about children. Why did He not talk about spanking/hitting them?

Considering all these facts, which I explore much more deeply in my book, Gentle Firmness, wouldn’t it make more sense to interpret these verses in keeping with the original context and actual meanings?

The deeper we look into the original context and meaning, the clearer it becomes that God never intended for children to be spanked/hit.

If we discipline children with God’s Word, they will not die.

If we protect children with the rod, they will not die.

If we use our authority properly to teach and guide our children in a gentle but firm way, they will not die.
Punishment leads to death. Discipline leads to LIFE!

“But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”
Matthew 19:14 NASB

Let’s listen to Jesus instead of man!

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