Oh man, as Jeff Crippen would say. I can’t read the Bible without getting another post in my head. Forgive me for flooding your inboxes!
“whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7)
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (18:10)
“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (18:14)
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (19:13-15)
Surely it is no accident that these verses about protecting children enclose three passages about heinous sin:
1) The passage about biblical discipline (Matt. 18:15-17) instructing us that a brother who refuse to repent is to be treated as a gentile and a tax collector – terms denoting people who rejected God and practiced idolatry. Gentiles practiced the idolatry of false religion; tax collectors practiced the idolatry of greed, covetousness and selfishness. Such people think they are entitled to do what they want; they have no qualms about living for themselves and their fleshly lusts.
2) The parable of the vindictive servant (Matt. 18:21-25) who had been forgiven a great debt but demanded repayment of a small debt. That servant’s sin reminds me of abusers. Victims forgive their abusers repeatedly, but when eventually the victim gives an ultimatum and sets some boundaries, the abuser fakes a little reformation … and then demands to be paid chips for good behavior.
3) The passage about the Pharisees’ tricky question to Jesus about divorce (Matt. 19:1-12), in which Jesus soundly rebukes their twisted interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1 and how they were using that to license treacherous divorce by men who wanted to dump their wives without good reason. That passage is all about men (including Jesus’ own disciples – v.10) having an attitude of entitlement: the very essence of the abusive mentality. And hasn’t that passage been much misused and misunderstood by Christians who use it to prohibit victims of abuse from divorcing their abusers, and to frown at remarriage after divorce!
As evangelical Christians we believe the Bible is fully inspired by God. Even the order of the narratives as penned by the inspired author (in this case Matthew) was guided by the Lord. Now, I think we can read too much into the order of the narratives – we don’t want to become like Kabbalah Jews who search for esoteric significance and miss the clear meaning of the text – but it’s legitimate to notice things about the literary structure of a text.
So, it occurs to me that we may be being told that the principle of protecting children is related to understanding and dealing with the mentality of entitlement that under-girds abuse.
Those of you who are dealing with family court decisions that have allowed your abuser to have unsupervised access (or even custody) of your children, are at the pointy end of where our society is failing here. My heart goes out to you.