“HAVING no natural affection.” With those sad words, the Bible describes many people of our time, a period called “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3, 4) The epidemic of child abuse in the family furnishes vivid proof of the truth of that prophecy. In fact, the original Greek word aʹstor·gos, rendered in English “having no natural affection,” suggested a lack of the love that should exist among family members, especially between parents and children. * And all too often that is the setting in which child abuse occurs.
Some researchers say that the most common perpetrator of sexual abuse is the male parent figure. Other male relatives also commonly molest. While most victims are girls, many boys are abused as well. Female perpetrators are not as rare as you might assume. Perhaps the most underreported form of abuse is sibling incest, where an older or more powerful child bullies or seduces a younger or weaker brother or sister into sexual acts. As a parent, you surely find all such acts repugnant.
How can you keep these problems from arising in your family? Clearly, every member of every family needs to learn and to value some principles that rule out abusive conduct. The best place to find that kind of guidance is in God’s Word, the Bible.
God’s Word and Physical Relations
To be safe, every family needs to embrace the Bible’s standard of morality. The Bible is not prudish when it comes to discussing sex. It is dignified, yet frank and to the point. It shows that God designed sexual intimacy to be a real blessing to husband and wife. (Proverbs 5:15-20) However, it condemns sexual conduct outside that arrangement. For instance, the Bible speaks openly against incest. In Leviticus chapter 18, a wide variety of incestuous relationships are forbidden. Note these words in particular: “You people must not come near, any man of you, to any close fleshly relative of his to lay bare nakedness [to have sexual intercourse]. I am Jehovah.”—Leviticus 18:6.
Jehovah listed acts of incest among the “detestable things” punishable by death. (Leviticus 18:26, 29) Clearly, the Creator has very high standards on this matter. Today, many governments take a similar view, outlawing the sexual abuse of children within the family. Often, the law holds that a child who is subjected to sexual relations by an adult has been raped. Why use that strong word if physical force was not involved?
Many authorities have come to recognize what the Bible has said all along about children—that they tend to be unable to reason in the way that adults do. For example, Proverbs 22:15 says: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy.” And the apostle Paul was inspired to write: “When I was a babe, I used to . . . think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.”—1 Corinthians 13:11.
A child cannot understand the full meaning of sexual acts, nor can a child imagine the consequences that will follow over the years. Hence, it is widely agreed that children cannot give any meaningful consent to engage in sexual relations. In other words, if an adult (or significantly older youth) has relations with a child, the older person cannot excuse the act by saying that the child did not object or that the child asked for it. The adult is guilty of rape. This is a crime, often punishable by a prison sentence. The responsibility for the rape belongs with the rapist, not the unwilling victim.
Sadly, though, most of such crimes go unpunished by authorities today. In Australia, for example, it has been estimated that only 10 percent of offenders are prosecuted, and few are convicted. Other lands have had a similar record. While governments may be able to do little to protect the Christian family, the application of Bible principles can do far more.
True Christians realize that the God who had those principles recorded in his Word has not changed. He sees every deed we carry out, even those that are hidden to most humans. The Bible says: “All things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.”—Hebrews 4:13.
God holds us accountable if we violate his commands and hurt others. On the other hand, he blesses us for adhering to his positive commands regarding family life. What are some of these?
A Family United by Love
“Love,” the Bible tells us, “is a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) As described in the Bible, love is not simply a feeling. It is defined by the way it motivates—by the conduct it prompts and the deeds it forbids. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) In the family, showing love means treating each member with dignity, respect, and kindness. It means living in harmony with God’s view of each family member. God gives each one an honorable and important role.
As the family head, the father is to take the lead in showing love. He understands that a Christian father is not given license to be a tyrant, abusing his power over his wife or children. Rather, he looks to Christ as his example in headship. (Ephesians 5:23, 25) So he is tender and loving with his wife and patient and gentle with his children. He loyally protects them and gives his all to prevent anything from happening that might rob them of their peace, their innocence, or their sense of trust and safety.
Likewise, the wife and mother has a role of vital importance and dignity. The Bible uses the protective instincts of mothers in the animal kingdom to illustrate how protective Jehovah and Jesus can be. (Matthew 23:37) A human mother should likewise be staunchly protective of her children. Lovingly, she is quick to put their safety and well-being ahead of her own. The parents do not allow abuse of power, bullying, or intimidation to enter into their dealings with each other or with their children; nor do they allow their children to use such tactics on one another.
As each family member treats the others with respect and dignity, good communication thrives. Notes author William Prendergast: “All parents should have daily, constant, close communication with their children or adolescents.” He adds: “This appears to be the best solution to the problem of sexual abuse.” Indeed, the Bible recommends just such constant and loving communication. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) When that direction is applied, the home is a place where each member can freely and safely speak from the heart.
Granted, we live in a wicked world and not all abuse can be prevented. Even so, a safe home can make a world of difference. If some member of the family is hurt outside the home, he or she knows just where to run for comfort and sympathy. Such a home is truly a refuge, a safe haven in a troubled world. May God bless your efforts to make your family just like that!
^ par. 2 This ancient Greek word has been defined: “Hard-hearted towards kindred.” One Bible translation thus renders this verse: “They will . . . lack normal affection for their families.”