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Arguing against corporal punishment

Dear Sir,

The incident in the United States where a youth was beaten to death in his church illustrates a problem that is troubling true believers.

The biblical injunction gives clear guidelines on this matter, eg, Proverbs 23:13. Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he shall not die ...

Unfortunately, there are misguided zealots who go to one of two extremes. At one end, they take a caution and turn it into a prohibition, reasoning that if there is a caution, prohibition is even better than the Bible standard. At the other end, they take a permission with limits and restraints, and ignore the boundaries.

Correcting a child is one of these situations that cry out for wise judgments. The overlying motivator for correction is love, not punishment.

Correction should not be given when motivated by anger because it becomes punishment, which is not in view in the biblical injunctions.

The Bible builds habits and good character: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The superiority of the Jewish nation is based on this training of children with adult, experience-based wisdom. In contrast, the children of the Western world are encouraged to make their own choices before they have had life experiences that build wisdom.

The US case, leading to death, was fuelled by anger. From our experience, we can guess other discredited emotions as well and, applying them to ourselves, have to learn from this terrible event to read the Bible carefully, not superficially.

The Bible specifies a rod. This lessens any possibility of grave physical damage to the corrected child.

In our Western world, parents may be prosecuted for assault. The need for this law comes from past times where parents have not followed the biblical guidelines listed earlier.

I would advise the true believer to avoid corporal punishment and institute an insistence on obedience from the time a child begins to understand language.

I can remember standing in a crib, displeased by my father, and saying out loud (out of his earshot), “Papa is a fool” three times and felt that I was getting even.

Most parents are not aware that children that young can react in this way. Early discipline by mouth with love, kindness and explanation make it easy to avoid stronger measures later when bad habits are already in place. Even baby children make judgments.

The consumption of alcoholic drinks is an example of limits and restraints recommended by the Bible, which are ignored by some and overemphasised by others. However, note that we must obey the rule of our own church leaders. Unity is more important than individual freedom.

Yours faithfully, BERTRAM GUISHARD

Beaten to death: Sarah Ferguson is among six members of the Word of Life Church in New Hartford, New York, charged over an attack on teenage brothers Lucas and Christopher Leonard. Lucas died as a result of his injuries (Photograph by Mike Groll/AP)

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Published November 03, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated November 02, 2015 at 11:15 pm)

Arguing against corporal punishment

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