The Tragedy of Child Abuse

By Calvin R. Schlabach

It happened again. Another child died. This time it was a nine-year-old girl named Joy. Her parents had beaten her with a board on her head, arms, legs, chest, and vaginal areas. After a few days of painful struggle in the hospital, her tortured body surrendered to its injuries and died.

What’s going on with these people? This is the latest in a series of cases of child abuse in this area which have resulted in the deaths of a number of young children. We read these things and shake our heads in disbelief. Has all the world gone crazy? When these little ones, these most innocent and most helpless of victims, are treated this way, we become angry and want the courts to “throw the book at” those brutal parents! Certainly, they deserve to be punished for their crime!

Later, in our calmer, more reflective moments, we wonder to ourselves how a father or mother could act like that. Rather than beating them, parents have a responsibility to provide for their children. Food, discipline, clothing, education, protection from harm, guidance for the future – all of these are things which parents must supply for their children (1 Tim.5:8). God says parents must “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph, 6.4).

I don’t think we are judging too harshly to say that parents who abuse their children or refuse to provide for them are lacking in love. Paul said that those “who had rejected the knowledge of God” became, among other things, “unloving” (NAS) or “without natural affection” (KJV, Rom. 13:1). That love for our children, which ought to be natural, is certainly missing in parents who mistreat their children like this. Proper parental love would motivate us to protect and provide for our children rather than beat and abuse them.

I am not so naive as to think that no member of God’s church would ever physically abuse a child, but certainly such a thing is rare among Christians. Nonetheless, it seems at times that some of God’s people do have a similar problem.

There are parents who would never physically harm their children, but they do lash out at them with verbal abuse. They berate, ridicule, and assault them with their words in the cruelest way, inflicting wounds that will never heal. If we love our children, we will use our words to build them up rather than to tear them down (Matt. 5.22; Jas. 3.8-10; Eph. 4.26,29).

Some parents, too, abuse their children by not providing them with what they really need. No, I’m not talking about material things; most of our children have more than enough toys, clothes, food, etc. I’m speaking instead about providing children with a proper example to follow; giving them parents “who lead the way” in serving God, illustrating in their own lives what a Christian ought to be (2 Tim. 1:5). Children need parents who will teach them God’s will, read to them from the Bible, talk with them about God, instruct them in matters of right and wrong (Eph.6:4). Loving parents will bring their children to Bible classes faithfully and not let other things take priority over this important ingredient in a child’s spiritual upbringing (Heb. 10:25; Eph. 6:4).

How tragic it is when children go astray, and the parents, with broken hearts, speak about them, saying, “I don’t know where we went wrong.” I obviously don’t know the facts in every case, but I suspect, in many cases, the children went astray because that’s the direction their parents carelessly sent them (Prov.22.6).

Joy is dead now. Her suffering is over. She’s gone to a place where she will never be abused by anyone again, and perhaps that means that she is more fortunate than some, for many children are still being mistreated by their parents.

Christian friends, let’s see to it that our children never have to suffer from child abuse, whether it be physical or verbal violence, or the even greater crime of spiritual neglect!

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 12, p. 365
June 20, 1991