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It's time to stop hitting in the name of love

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Pastor's Column

By Guest Editorial

“The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”

-- Psalm 11: 5

 “Husbands love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”

-- Colossians 3: 19

 “See that you do not despise the little ones for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my father who is in heaven.”

-- Matthew 18: 10

By Janet Richardson

Guest Columnist

I am a firm believer in the justice system. I know that “one is innocent until proven guilty.”  I try to “hold my judgment” and listen to the facts.

But honestly, the news spilling out of the NFL now is disturbing.  Did a former National Football League Most Valuable Player really whip his child with a branch so harshly that his legs are bruised and scratched? Would a National Football League running back assault his girlfriend and then throw a shoe at his 17-month-old child? How could a victim of domestic violence apologize for “provoking” him to hit her in an elevator?

Is this the culture of the National Football League players and their families? Is this the culture of our homes and families? The word “disturbing” is an understatement for all concerned.

We are familiar with the Old Testament verse that tells us, “he who spares the rod, hates his son (Proverbs 13: 24).” This is a verse often used to justify the use of force to discipline a child.

However, it is often used out of context.

The Lord does not like people who love violence (Psalm11: 5). Colossians 3:19 tells us that husbands are “not to be harsh” with their wives.  Instead they are to love them.

A wise woman would also show mercy, kindness and patience to her spouse.  If anyone is upset with a child, he or she is “not to despise them” (Matthew 18: 10).

Jesus loves the little children and says, “Come unto me,” in the New Testament.  Children need discipline in their lives in order to respect themselves and others.  But there are acceptable ways to discipline without using sticks, belts or our open hand.

I learned this when raising my children. A time-out, a loss of privileges, being “grounded” and other non-violent solutions were effective in disciplining them.

I am a single parent and it seemed an overwhelming task (at times) to discipline them and teach respect for others. But today both my children are honor students and good citizens. The methods I used worked well and they did not include any form of hitting.

Families do have the occasional “melt-down.” Yet there is never a reason to abuse a child or throw things such as shoes at them.  It is not as if God sets an unrealistic standard that we never get angry at our spouses or our children. In fact, God acknowledges our battle with anger by saying, “Be angry and do not sin, ponder in your hearts on your bed and be silent.” (Psalm 4: 4) So we cannot avoid anger, yet we can avoid responding with abusive words or actions. As Christians, we do not live in a glass bubble protected from the stresses and problems of our society.  In fact we show the world the best way to deal with problems in our family.  It is simple.

The scripture says, “We are to live peaceably with all” (Romans 17: 17-18). When we are upset, we do not provoke our children (Colossians 3: 21). We do not render “wrong for wrong,” (I Thessalonians 5: 18).  We do not react to stress with physical violence or emotional abuse. Instead spouses, children and family members are given our respect, love and care.

My prayers are with the families of those in the National Football League and in our community who struggle with these issues. If abuse is happening in your family, see a pastor or therapist or social worker who can help you find better solutions to stress and anger issues. Report any suspected abuse to the police. Be courageous and get out of those relationships where you experience abuse or fear for your safety.

It is our responsibility to protect children and the vulnerable, so step up and protect your children.  Protect your elderly parents from abuse. Let us all be firm in putting an end to this cycle of violence in our families. God shows us there is a better way -- love and be loved. That is how life is meant to be lived.

(The Rev. Dr. Janet S. Richardson is the pastor of Independence-based Bridle Creek United Methodist Church Circuit. Email her at janetrichardson52@gmail.com.)