Expanding the Definition of Abuse

It wasn’t that long ago when all of us were hearing disgusting stories concerning children being sexually abused by priests and pastors all across America.

It is probably quite true that these sinfully ugly predators have hunted the innocent among us since time began. Each time the predatory nature of these evil intentions rear their collective heads from the depths of Hell we “good” people seem soooooo surprised by the occurrence.

We wonder, how could this happen?

We ponder the horrific display of evil among us. We sense a great loss of the innocence of life within these young victims. We feel repulsed by the extent of the viciousness of the abuse and the wasted joy of life that has been forced on each of these abused children.

We find ourselves saying,

“Why didn’t somebody know?”

Or we will ask, “When will we stand up and deal directly with these sick, evil and vile people who every day of their lives are out on a ‘seek and destroy’ mission against children? They seek to destroy children by abusing them physically, emotionally and sexually.

However, I want to share with you just for a moment about another kind of abuse. It’s an abuse that may appear more subtle in its display but it is nonetheless abuse. It is the spiritual abuse that the crowd of self- determination, self-indulgence, self-service and societal selfishness have imposed and inflicted on hundreds of thousands of children within this country over the last few decades.

I want you to imagine being a six year old child. Can you remember that far back in your life? Can you recall the utter simplicity of how life approached you on a daily basis?

Imagine, if you will, those devastating circumstances that some children have to endure when their lives are turned completely upside down….

• A father dies.
• A sibling is killed in a car accident.
• The shock of a major physical injury.
•A tornado destroys a home.
•Being removed from a home because the parents have abused the child in some way.

The examples of life’s uglier side are far too many to mention.

A reality is that when any child is thrust into the harsh reality of life it will prompt profound emotional reactions.

Sometimes those emotional reactions are comforted by family and friends. At other times there is either no one to offer the comfort needed or the emotional devastation is so great that recovery is at best a long-term hope.

There is no doubt that the devastation of any kind of abuse is traumatic for the child as well as troubling for those who become aware of it. Most of us have a great sense of personal loss and sadness when we become aware of any child suffering. We find this unnecessary, unfair and unreasonably imposed circumstance distasteful to our sense of right and wrong.

Now, let me take you one more step up this ladder of reality.

I want you to think how you would personally would if you actually knew the child being abused. What if you lived next door to the boy or girl for years and never knew the abuse was going on until the ambulance came to pick up a child to carry them to the emergency room? If only you would have been more aware. If only you would have paid more attention to the signs. You would have done something, wouldn’t you? I pray that just about all of us – if we were actually aware of the abuse – would do something about it.

In our Bible, it tells us that Jesus is to have said something to the effect of “do not hinder the little children from coming to Me”. To paraphrase yet again, Jesus was to have said, according to the divinely inspired authors of Holy Script, that those who desire a fully connected relationship with Him must approach the decision as a child of innocence.

Folks, what are we doing to our children?

What are we doing to their future lives when we do not urgently and intentionally introduce, promote and sustain the exposure of a life full of a journey of faith? What are we doing to not only our children but also the families that they belong? It my mind, I can easily make the intellectual jump that by not personally introducing, promoting and sustaining a child’s life by enhancing their faith in something greater than ourselves, we are quite literally abusing that child.

We are abusing children every day we cheapen or delude a life that is profoundly enhanced by faith.

It seems to me that there is a serious case of child abuse when anyone imposes on a child that life is merely one accidental occurrence after another. Why would anyone, but the saddest of individuals, tell a child that all they will ever become is limited to chance? There is always something greater at work in every person’s life. This “thing” that is greater than one’s self provides the blessed assurance of not being alone or completely on our own. At times this “thing” that is greater than one’s self can be experienced through a series of helping hands along life’s travels.

There will be caring people who will stand up when a child is in need. They stand up to encourage the character development of a child. They stand up when it is necessary to console the heart that is hurting. They will stand up when the lost need to be guided or champion those who have been oppressed. Some may even stand up when a dream for the future may require a special financial action plan.
Now, if this makes any sense to anyone, then the question becomes, “Why is it so difficult for some to acknowledge that God may be in the midst of someone’s life?” Why can’t some of us extend to our children the foundational value of faith in something greater than themselves, something beyond our self?

It doesn’t take a genius to see that in many of the homes all across America our children are being abused in a variety of differing ways; some profoundly obvious examples such as sexual or physical harm and other more subtle examples like you’re all alone in this world or that all that you are able to physically see is all the truth that exists.

Too many of our children are missing the greatness of life’s divine possibilities because the adults in their lives refuse to see the immense value of a faith relationship. Being involved with a healthy and diverse church family of faithful fellowship may not be the answer to every ill society has inflicted upon its children, but it can be – when it’s correct in its display – a marvelously empowering experience for all who are touched by its loving grace.


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