Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adrian Peterson: How Should We Respond?

There is a public outcry against Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson for whipping his sons and leaving bruising on their bodies. (We didn’t call “whippings” spankings when I was a boy.)

I’ve seen this type of bruising on a child before – after he deliberately disobeyed his parents. I was whipped – “taken to the woodshed” – and sometimes I had bruising on my arms and legs. When a child is whipped – disciplined in such a manner – there will be bruising.

“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” (Proverbs 23:13)

My Mom and Dad didn’t believe in sending you to the corner or to time-out. They were more demonstrative in expressing their dissatisfaction with our rebellion. Their message to us was clear: if we tell you to do something but you decide to do something else, you will be disciplined. You will be whipped. (But I don’t believed this applied to their grandchildren.)

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and no one gave me a second look when they saw swollen red areas on my arms or legs. They knew I had gotten a whipping and that I probably deserved it. (Yeah, I always did.) And my teachers showed absolutely no concern for my bruising. (Yeah, they knew I probably deserved the whipping too.) All of them knew my parents. I can’t tell you the number of times I heard “Do you want me to tell John or Dorothy on you?” I kid you not.

My Mom and Dad were the most loving parents a child could ever have. They were not abusive. But they didn’t spare the rod or the switch or the belt or the paddle. By the way, I also saw swollen red areas on the arms and legs of other kids in the neighborhood. My parents were by no means alone in how they disciplined their children.

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)

My Mom and Dad taught us that we had boundaries and they were not boundaries of our own choosing. My parents knew that if they didn’t teach us to obey them and to respect their authority while we were at home the odds were good that we would be less willing to obey others and less respectful of authority when we left home.

Let me tell you what I believe we’re witnessing today.

The enemy of the soul (the devil, satan) wants our emotions regarding this issue to be so outraged and so disgusted that we are willing to take another step on the path toward disapproval of any type of child discipline. We are heading toward a time in this country when parents will see jail time for whipping their children. I am not joking.

Can you image what some people would say about my Mom and Dad today if they saw me going to school with swollen red areas on my arms or legs? My teacher would pull me out of class and take me to the principal’s office and he would talk to me about the bruising. Depending on my response, he would decide if outside intervention was warranted. Notice what I said. The principal would make that determination based on a conversation with me – the child who is sore and angry – and not after a conversation with the child, who is sore and angry, and his parents.

Now let me ask you a question: a child who has been disciplined because he was in rebellion – who is sore and angry with his Mom or Dad – what are the chances of that child being completely truthful about what led to the whipping? Are you following me?

Now, I’m not defending Mr. Peterson’s actions. But I am not throwing him under the bus either. Many Christians are judging and condemning him based on what they’ve read or seen in the news and social media. It reminds me of a lyric from Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” “People say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear.” I believe there’s a lot of truth to that.

As Christians, how should we respond to what we’re seeing and hearing about Mr. Peterson? How about we take our cues from Jesus. Remember the story of the woman who as caught in adultery? I’m not going to get into the one-sidedness of this whole affair but the indictment against the religious leaders was clear. Jesus is teaching in the temple and the religious leaders drag this woman into the temple – I’m sure kicking and screaming -- and make her stand in front of him. “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:4, 5) Jesus’ response was clear and telling: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And they which heard it being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one …” (John 8:9a)

All of us have done things in our lives that we wish we could do over. And we’re glad that we’re not like those in the public eye where everything they do is open for scrutiny and ridicule. The things we wish we’d never done are safe. We will do everything we can to make sure “they never see the light of day.” And yet, we pounce on those who live everyday of their lives “in the light of day.”

I got news for you. Your life is in the public domain. Just ask God. You are more exposed than you realize. When you speak, you are exposing what is at work on the inside of you. And if what you say is condemning and judging, guess what is working on the inside of you? Do you think Jesus would respond to this situation the way many Christians are responding?

Let’s find out by going back to the woman caught in adultery. And let’s be clear – the accusations were true. “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).

If Adrian Peterson did in fact go too far in disciplining his sons, the last thing he needs from the body of Christ is our condemnation. What he needs is our love, our mercy and our intercession. Isn’t that what Jesus showed the woman in John 8?