Of course, we recognize that Jesus did not have children and Jesus was never married. We also recognize that at the end of the day, as I will argue below, the question is moot and unhelpful. But first, a little background.
I can remember no topic in the last few years that I have agonized over more than spanking. I have read every book or section of book from respected authors (who are Christians) on spanking. I have listened to untold number of sermons, podcasts, and interviews. I have emailed mentors, talked with my pastor, and spoken with other parents. Most importantly, I have studied the Scriptures with a kind of passion I wish was common to my daily, ongoing Bible study. I am not going to lay out a complete theology of spanking in this article, but after all my searching and studying, after all my listening and discerning, I have become convinced that spanking is honoring and pleasing to God. And yet, as my wife will tell you, I shudder and cower away when the time comes for Callie to be spanked (which is not very often). I can think of no area for me personally that has been more difficult to accept as a Christian who wants to honor God than spanking.
Throughout the course of my “investigation” into spanking, I received several helpful suggestions and some not-so-helpful. I was asked more than once if I thought Jesus would spank a child. I am going to briefly explain why I said “yes” at the beginning of this article, but first let me explain why that is not the best question to ask.
More often than not, when folks say “would Jesus have done so and so” (fill in the blank: Would Jesus have supported Capital Punishment, vote for abortion, listened to rock music, attended a gay weddding, etc – I have seen bumper stickers with virtually every situation imaginable) what is implied in the question is conjecture. The question demands we think of the person Jesus and then try to “figure out” if he would have acted in a particular circumstance that is consistent with who we see in Scripture. Although this is a positive idea and certainly has great intentions, the Christian faith is not one of speculation and guessing. The Bible has been provided by God so that we may be certain of our salvation and be certain of what pleases God with our actions. Thus, when we are faced with decisions, some of which can be difficult, we depend on our faith in Christ and search the Scriptures to see what is pleasing to God. Besides, Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, and unless you have figured something out I haven’t, knowing what God is going to do next is perfectly impossible. Thank God!
That is pertinent to this question because 1) instead of trying to guess what Jesus would have done, I need to prayerfully read His word and get instruction directly from God through His word and 2) such a question can “override” Scripture because we all imagine a meek, mild, smiling Jesus that is inconsistent with him turning a child over his knee. And those images, regardless of what Scripture might clearly teach on the subject, can and will take precedence. And that quickly becomes idolatry because we are substituting God’s revelation of Himself with our own preferential picture of Jesus. Now, I don’t believe we should all go burn our WWJD bracelets. If that question “What Would Jesus Do?” causes us to dig into Scripture and “rightly divide the Word,” then terrific. But I fear more often than not it is an isolated question of conjecture of what “we think” Jesus would do.
So, with all of that being said, let me explain why I said yes to the question at hand. It is really pretty easy. Jesus believed, was guided by, and treasured Scripture. Jesus was (and is) also about the business of saving people from sin and hell. Proverbs 23:14 says, “If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” As in Psalm 49, Sheol refers to the place where the ungodly are estranged from God after death. The Bible here, and in several other places, provides teaching on corporal punishment well beyond just mere behavior modification. What is at stake is the character development of the child and their salvation. That is why Jesus would have spanked.
Now, let me throw something even more thought-provoking at you. Jesus does spank his children. Hebrews 12:6 says, “the Lord disciplines the ones he loves, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Our suffering, our brokenness, our pain is all a special part of our unique relationship with God in which He sometimes “spanks” his children because He loves them. Not all pain from God is due to discipline of course, but some of it most certainly is. God does and will bring pain into our lives and, ironically, it should cause us to thank Him for loving us. The pain that comes from God causes us to “share his holiness” and it “yields fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:10-11). So, the parent and his child is analogous to God and His children, which raises the importance scale to another level. This is why I am not supportive of the “time out” mentality. God simply does not do time outs with his children, whereby we are instructed to the nearest isolated corner so that guilt may increase until we finally break down. The pain that comes from God reminds us of a loving God.
You can see how thinking biblically can bring about a radical different approach in all areas of life. If you are not a believer, then everything I have said in this article is nonsense. If you are a believer, you may disagree with me, but you would not say this is nonsense; we all who are in Christ want to live by the standard He has set for us. That takes time. That takes thinking. That takes prayer. That takes Jesus.