Graham Thompson – Auckland Special Meetings 4th June 2012
Mark 10: 13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
It tells us here about the people bringing children to Jesus. The disciples discouraged them. It tells us the reaction of Jesus. In this bible it says He was much displeased. I was looking at the meaning, the way it was originally written, the word. It says that the word used for the reaction of Jesus is a word of very strong emotion which literally comes from the root which means He felt pained. I t is commonly taken to mean that He felt great indignation. I love to see the care that Jesus had for the children.
Today I want to speak about the care of children. Amongst the things that we are speaking of is a matter that is referred to often in current terminology as CSA. The first word of these three is child and the last is abuse or assault and the middle one I am not going to voice but it begins with s and refers to a kind of physical mistreatment that is of the cruellest, basest, most defiling and most damaging kind.
There are some things that we don’t like to speak of and don’t ordinarily speak of so openly and there are some things that are so distasteful that we don’t even like to feel it might be necessary to speak about them so we are not going to voice that word but I must say that if anyone has the slightest doubt about what is going to be referred to, please ask afterward.
Paul when he wrote to the Ephesians said about things to keep away from. In Ephesians 5:12 he said it is a shame even to speak about those things that are done of them in secret. But there are times when it is necessary to say something because it is not always done of them. There have been times and occasions when things have been done which should not have been done among the fellowship. There have been times when things have been done which should not have been done by members of the ministry.
Today we want to speak about these things as discretely as possible and as clearly as necessary. In the last year or so there has been quite a lot of discussion about matters in Victoria, Australia. I find it very saddening and have to say that I feel that the response of the ministry has not been adequate. There is no point in trying to make an apology because words can’t deliver. But what is really needed is that most profound of all apologies and that is reform of attitude and beginning to acknowledge where there has been error and the committed purpose and earnestness to ensure that where there has been error that there will not be error again.
One thing that needs to be remembered very clearly in this matter of treatment of children is that we are talking about crime, and more than that we are talking about the most heinous kind of crime of all. The various crimes that are committed, some are against property, some against the interests of society or the state, and there are some against the person. Of all crimes, the crime of one person against another person is the worst. The crime of a man against the person of another man is bad. The crime of a man against the person of a woman is worse. The crime of a man against the person of a child is the worst of all. It has the worst disastrously damaging effect and leads to a legacy of challenge that is mostly carried the life-long through.
So we come to the question of what one does to handle such a thing. I Corinthians 6 there is advice given about not letting matters go to law or to be heard before the court. I have heard people express the view that this applies to the matter to which we are referring today but it does not. This is not a matter of criminal wrong doing in this chapter that Paul is talking about. He is talking about what we would call in today’s legal proceedings a civil suit. A matter of one person against another person in the matter perhaps of being defrauded or suffering loss or some contest or dispute about property or something of that nature. That is what he is speaking about on this chapter.
We must never fall into the error of suggesting that because a person is in the fellowship of the children of God that there are things they are sheltered from in terms of not having penalties applied. It must never be thought that the gospel or fellowship presents an umbrella under which people may hide and the law may be broken with impunity or the law-breaker find shelter and not face the consequence of breaking the law and it must never be seen or seem to be that the fellowship of God’s people presents an opportunity or place where there is scope for the breaking of the law.
Think about Jesus and His love and His feelings and His purity and how he valued little children because in them He saw the essence of purity and lack of defilement that He loved because it spoke of what He lived himself and that is why there is a respect toward children in Jesus. Think of Jesus who felt so toward little children and how He would feel if there was anything to which His name was attached which could be used in a way in which children could suffer or in which suffering was allowed.
Scripture which applies to matters of criminal breaking of the law, one of the passages, is found in Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Peter also wrote some words that are relevant to this. I Peter 2: 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. Those scriptures are those that apply to the attitude toward the criminal breaking of the law. We are very favoured people in this country that we live and have lived in a society with wonderful liberty because of the rule of law and a general orderliness. There are some things that we should give thanks to God for because we read in Revelation about a time when that will be taken away from the earth. We hardly bear to think about what that may be like. We in this country are in a favoured and fortunate position that the rule of law and general orderliness is the norm. We are favoured because of that great freedom and great security. We have good government. I’m not speaking about the currently elected members but about the system of government that we have and the rules and protocols, the way the country is ordered, we are a favoured people. There are powers that remain with God and they are under His rule. There are agents appointed by God as the ministry of God to attend to matters of evil doing and wrong doing and it says there the ministry of God is not to be resisted but to be dealt with as necessary according to the mind of God. It is necessary to thank God for this wonderful environment of orderliness in which we live.
So the process of the law is not to be resisted. There is to be a cooperation, there is to be an acceptance, there is even to be a thankfulness to God for the very same because it is of God. So there is the question now of what do we do if there should seem to be a risk somewhere to the children. The safety and welfare of the little children must never be compromised by anything. There must never be anything that is allowed that could impact upon it or threaten or give the slightest measure of risk to the children. Where there is a known risk there must be openness so the risk can be avoided. Failure to do so is as much an offence as the offence itself.
Where there is known to be or even thought to be reasonable grounds, a suggestion of risk, in that also there must be advice and counsel given in sufficiently clear terms that all measure of risk is avoided.
I believe that there is a good parallel to this and the attitudes toward this to those that we find toward people who have a problem with alcohol. It is very difficult to get over that. This problem that we are speaking about today is also extremely difficult one to get over and one that carries with it an extremely high incidence of reoccurrence or re-offense.
In the matter of those who have a problem with alcohol, amongst them there is sometimes a willingness to acknowledge the problem and to seek help for the problem. It is a very courageous step and one which the community at large applauds, strongly, a willingness to accept that there is a problem and to address the problem with the help of others. And furthermore when a person takes steps to address the problem they are supported wholeheartedly by everybody and there is an immense feeling of respect and admiration for the courageousness of those who are able to confront the problem and do something about it. That is the community attitude toward that particular thing.
But this particular problem about which we speak today, whilst it has a certain parallel to that, it has the much much more serious side to it that the effects of the problem impact on others, very directly and very damagingly and for that reason also, very clear steps must be taken. Where there is willingness for openness and willingness to courageously confront a problem and address it with necessary help that is available to make effort to overcome it, there is a great fund of goodwill and support for those who will do that, and a great willingness to assist in whatever way is possible. We are speaking of cooperation. When we speak about a necessity for openness and avoiding risk we are speaking about cooperation. We are not speaking about vindication or vengeance or any such thing. We are speaking about cooperation whereby someone who may have a problem is able to have the benefit of everybody’s support and help, that opportunities are not created or allowed, but that encouragement and support is given in every way possible.
So we come to the question then of how do we move forward and work toward an acceptance that there is rehabilitation. There are some guidelines for that in scripture. Let’s look at II Corinthians 7 where Paul refers to problems that were amongst the Corinthians and he has done so in very clear terms.
8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
In the last verse of that chapter he has these words I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things. There had been a problem. The problem had been addressed. The problem had been dealt with. We see the kind of marks that Paul could see or were evident in those who were moved toward repentance. Very clear marks, very heartfelt things, very sure signs that their attitude of dealing with things, not trivialising matters, not pretending to minimise things but rather the opposite ability, to maximise the application to oneself that it may be treated as it ought to be treated. He speaks of these things: indignation, fear, vehement desire, zeal, revenge. We will speak on that word in a minute. The words speak of very very strong feelings and very very concrete measures taken that there might be a change. Not trivialising matters, rather the opposite.
Indignation, the very same word here that Jesus used in the first verse we read when he said he was much displeased. Strong emotion. Greatly stirred. Jesus when He said that He was really telling the people ‘that is not me, that is not my position’. He strongly put His case that ‘That is not me’. And where it says the same thing that this people amongst whom there had been a problem and now they had cleansed themselves, not by denial, but by acceptance and addressing the matter, dealing with the desire for revenge. Looking at the meaning of that word, it is an unfortunate use of that word really although it was no doubt apt when this bible was translated, because we are inclined to think of the word as get back or pay back. It doesn’t mean that at all in this case. It is not used in that way. It means simply, the even handed and effective application of justice. Even handed and effective. Just treatment, of everything and everybody.
So Paul was able to say to them ‘I have confidence in you’. Steps had been taken which would allow the rebuilding of confidence. It’s not easily done but it can be done. Repentance is much more than just verbalising a statement that ‘I am sorry’.
This matter of mistreatment of children, there are 3 components to it. One is that it is criminally wrong. Another is the mental health aspect as well. The other is that it has an element of spiritual health aspect. Those three things, differing as they do, need to be addressed by those who are competent to do so. We are faced as shepherds and pastors of the flock, with the help of God and with the aid of His spirit, we seek help in matters of the spirit and in spiritual welfare for individuals of the flock but we are not equipped for those others and they need to be left where they belong.
Matters that relate to criminally breaking of the law need to be dealt with by the law, and matters that relate to mental health and those sorts of concerns need to be dealt with by those who are competent to deal with them.
Repentance, the thought or suggestion or feeling of repentance will have no value at all unless all those matters have been addressed, and there is a willingness for the law to be followed and the penalties to be faced and accepted without appeal. I don’t understand how anyone who could appeal against a penalty could consider themselves to be fully remorseful. There must be a willingness for the acceptance of penalty. There must be a willingness to seek help that is necessary and effectively from those who are clinically equipped and enabled to deal with matters of process and proper mind, and there must be very clear and definite and concrete steps that speak of change from the depths of the heart and then , and only then, can there be a feeling that there has been repentance. Then, and only then, can there be the possibility of beginning, rebuilding confidence. It is possible, if the process is followed.
We are thankful that we have the example of Jesus, to strengthen us and teach us and guide us in all that is acceptable to peace. May God help us that in all matters and at all times that we are allowing Christ to be our guide and teacher, that He could be dwelling in us, and that He would be stronger than us to make us like Himself, and that He would be manifesting Himself through us, that in this world God’s people may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world and speak of things that belong to Christ.