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The Love That Carries A Whip

We all enjoy warm feelings and positive emotions; but we should not confuse these things for love. Love goes far deeper than affection or desire. Love does not affirm us when we do wrong. Love does not overlook our selfishness, cowardice and hatred. Love challenges us – firmly, persistently – to be transformed.
A parent who truly loves a child establishes boundaries. No lying. No hitting. No disrespect. And, when necessary, the loving parent disciplines. Not to punish, but to correct.
This is the true love that we see in Jesus as he overturns the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. This is the genuine love of God that we see in Jesus as he binds chords to make a whip and drives the merchants out of the holy place. Sometimes love demands anger.
When does love call us to stand against cynicism, cruelty, greed and injustice? How do we stay humble even as Christ calls us to hold others accountable? How do we prepare ourselves to be transformed by the no-nonsense love of God? Are we ready to be called out? Are we ready to change?
  • Caring can lead to anger, and can sometimes be expressed via violent efforts to control its object.

    But anger is nobody’s friend, no tool for any worthwhile end. It’s not a reason to feel guilty… but it is certainly an affliction, a sign that you have been (mistakenly) blaming someone or something other than your faults & God’s mercy.

    What you need to communicate, on some occasions, may well be “I don’t like this and I won’t put up with it.” It had better not be: “It’s okay for me to make you suffer because…” A bear can communicate with her cubs by hitting them, because this is truly the only means she has for messages like “Stay away from bear traps.” We have been given more creative ways.

  • I would say a “healthy love does not affirm us when we do wrong”, etc. I have seen and experienced those who out of love tolerate much to an unhealthy extent. But a healthy love has and sets boundaries for the good of everyone involved.

  • I feel the need to say more about this.

    My father was a really good example of how to be a male human being… except he’d gotten socialized into this idea that you get “respect” by verbal (& if that didn’t work, physical) violence, ordering people around, scaring them into ‘compliance.’ In the end, I broke his silly heart, both my fault and his, a terrible sad thing that I should have to be afraid of a good man, that I should pass this on to my own kid.

    One can convey animal ‘dominance’ by blows, physical or verbal. But not respect. I respected him despite his need for outward signs, because at heart he was a decent and intelligent man.

    All you can compel by ‘punishment’ is your own lack of respect. To teach respect, you need to respect.

  • Liberal Friends often overlook the fact that the New Testament condemns wars and fighting, but approves the sword of the magistrate (for law enforcement), and has nothing to say about family discipline (spankings, etc.) beyond the trite “honor your parents” and the refreshing “welcome back your prodigal child”.

    Barry Levy, writing in Quakers and the American Family, reports that many in the first generation of Friends tried giving up spanking, and the result was that the children they raised that way grew up into spoiled brats. The next generation drew a lesson from this, and concluded that the commandment against wars and fighting was not a commandment against the wholesome discipline of children. Friends throughout the middle centuries of our Society’s existence would use nonviolent means (shaming and the like) when they could, but they did not rule out spanking in an extremity.

    I agree with forrest that anger is nobody’s friend. But chastisement can be done without anger; it can be done simply out of an understanding that a situation requires it. Slapping a child out of anger is wrong; it was something that seasoned Friends did not do in those middle centuries. But slapping a child to startle it out of a temper tantrum, or to otherwise call it back to an awareness of the gravity of the situation, is not the same thing at all, and the child itself will feel and respond to the difference.

    I personally read the story of the Cleansing of the Temple, as an account of Jesus using a whip to startle the moneychangers and call them back to an awareness of the gravity of the situation.

    I suspect that the whip cracked a good deal in the air, struck the tables between the merchants’ hands, whistled by their ears, etc., to the point where they dared not ignore it. I doubt that Jesus took gratuitous aim at anybody’s flesh with that whip, but he might have hit some people because they stood when he expected them to be moving. A parent herding an intransigent child out of freeway traffic might do much the same. Perhaps we should remember that disrespect for God is a great deal more deadly than freeway traffic, even in New York or L.A.

  • A typical child, criminal, or CEO will keep doing whatever it likes until someone calls them on it.

    If they can evade that call, ignore it with impunity, they will certainly do that, and get better at evasion with practice. We’ve all seen how a criminogenic environment could weed out the most honest brokers and corrupt the rest.

    And we’ve probably seen “spoiled” children in the making. It seems to be about “failure to confront.” Inattention. A woman with too many kids and too few eyes, which she averts because watching kids be unpleasant is enough to drive a person crazy…

    I remember a study (never checked up on it but thoroughly believe it) which concluded that human children can survive and recover from just about any style of child-rearing– provided there’s genuine love at work in it.

    It also seems that children can be as mentally damaged by psychological torments as if they’d been physically beaten.

    An ideal of child-raising, any ideal that gets in the way of a clear-eyed, loving connection to an actual child, is pure poison.

    But to quote a little from Stephen Gaskin’s dharma talks: “They say that you can’t help people without hurting people. That’s wrong.” More from the same book (_Caravan_): “The moral code is simple and obvious and everybody really knows what it is and the children know what it is. Kids can go along and they’ll argue about how many balls you’re supposed to use in three-cornered catch or anything like that, but there’s always a place where all the kids will agree and will say, ‘Hey, that ain’t fair,’ and they’ll agree on that…”

    So, there’s always something a little suspect about “I’m bigger that you, and know more, so what I want is what’s going to happen.” God could work this world that way, but doesn’t. God lets us make lots of mistakes… and we suffer a lot from the bad ones, would suffer more if there weren’t a bit of divine buffering between us and the worse consequences. In practice, we don’t let kids play in traffic…

    Lloyd Lee Wilson went on and on about “covenants”– and since I didn’t speak that language, it sounded a whole lot like imprisoning people in old contracts. That’s how it looked to the early Hebrews. But what God did to the concept changed it: “A contract is an agreement made in suspicion. The parties do not trust each other, and they set ‘limits’ to their own responsibility. A covenant is an agreement made in trust. The parties love each other and put no limits on their own responsibility.”– [Wambdi Wicasa]

    It’s always hard to handle relations that way, and things can go wrong. But that’s what Jesus was really about. Not covert parental s&m, which is where people usually end with this sort of justification.

  • I still read the use of the whip as used in driving out the animals, cattle, sheep, etc. that had been brought in for the “money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals” who Jesus condemned. I have no doubt that some of the humans may have gotten in the road of the escaping animals, but I don’t feel that the evidence indicates Jesus meant or used the whip for people.

    What is usually much more effective but much harder to do in the “disciplining of children is a very consistent set of guidelines and consequences for “violations.” It is often very tempting to let some things “slide” when they aren’t too bad and then stronger reactions are required when things escalate. Gentle leading to firm reminders on a very consistent pattern in a busy life full of distractions, both on the part of parents and children seems to be a difficulty.