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Boy abandoned in bear-infested woods ‘as punishment’

June 18, 2016

Boy abandoned in bear-infested woods ‘as punishment’

I remember my shock at reading that headline earlier this year. A seven-year-old boy had annoyed his parents by continuing to throw stones, so they drove off leaving him in a dense forest with no food and water. It just happened to be full of bears too.

Now, I can remember how frustrating it can be to have a child that just won’t behave. I can remember car journeys where I have threatened to tie my daughter to the roof-rack for a little peace. But I never would and never did. My wife asked her whether she remembered me making these threats – she said, “Yes, often, but I knew he would never do it”, and laughed. It was an over the top threat that made her laugh as a little child, but somehow often worked. That mock punishment seemed to often bring us both to our senses.

Thankfully, that little boy was resourceful, and fortunate enough to find an empty army hut where he could shelter. There was no one there but he survived by drinking rain water until he was found by a soldier 6 days later. Still this must have been a terrifying time for the boy, and everyone involved. This included his parents. They had only wanted to scare him, but when they drove back a few minutes later their little boy was gone!

I think that I’m not alone feeling a sense of horror and disbelief. How could any parent do this to their child, even if they planned to come back? I was so relieved when I read that the little boy was safe and well, and amazingly reconciled with his very contrite parents.

I also remember my disbelief and horror when I learned that my loving Father God could act in a far more severe way with his children. The two facts didn’t seem to add up. It certainly didn’t match what I knew of God through the work of his Spirit in me. It did not match up to Jesus saying, “God is Love and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4.16). But it did seem to match the image of God as pure and holy, who could never tolerate any sin or corruption. So what was happening? Why the contradiction?

For quite some time I just had to live with the contradiction. I loved Jesus, but feared the God of judgement. Thankfully, I already had a strong enough relationship with God through his Spirit, that I knew that I could trust him to sort it out somehow. I just had no real idea how this could happen.

Then a simple phrase in the Bible came alive. The Spirit lifted it off the page for me. It was this, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith” (Galatians 3.25-26 CEV). “I am no longer subject to a disciplinarian!” But who is this disciplinarian? It can’t be Jesus because he has freed me from this disciplinarian, and from that passage it clearly isn’t God the Father either. After all this passage is clear that I am his child, through faith.

So who is the disciplinarian? I read more of Galatians and found that Paul accuses the religious law of making his readers slaves. It is religious law that is the cruel slave-master, that would happily punish me severely for even the slightest disobedience, the slightest sin. Thankfully, through faith in Jesus I’m no longer subject to that disciplinarian, to that slave-master. I am not only no longer a slave, I am a loved child.

But then a voice whispers, “But what about all those things that you do and think that are far from holy or perfect? What about all that anger and violence that filled you when you read about that MP being murdered? What’s God going to do about all that?” Then I get worried again, perhaps I’ve missed something.

Then I looked to Jesus, and this time the story of the demon possessed man (Luke 8.26-39 CEV). He is described as not only mad but utterly debased too. He even lives with the dead in the graveyard. Jesus sees through the corruption to the man inside, the man in torment. Then he does something amazing he banishes all the evil and corruption. The man is left sane and healthy again. His life is returned to him. That is what I know God is doing to me, and in me. Through faith, and God’s love in me, the Holy Spirit is getting access to the dingier and darker parts of me. I’m letting him in and he is cleaning out the rubbish. Then there’s room for more love. Sadly, it hasn’t all happened at once. I know I’m more godly, more loving than I was, but I also know that I’m far from perfect still. I suspect that this is because God knows me so well, he knows that I’d just get big headed and proud. So he takes it slow and steady, in small steps that leave as little room as possible for my pride to fit in. But still, Jesus is loving me just as much as he loved that tormented man.

I pray that wonderful prayer, the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. I am no longer praying to a fearful god standing over me with a big stick. No, I’m praying to my loving Brother, praying please help me with my weakness and all that separates me from you. Knowing that through my Brother Jesus, I have discovered that I have a loving Father God who loves me as he loves Jesus.

I have no fear of punishment, at least not from God. I do however fear through lack of Love. I know for certain that my Father would never leave me behind and drive off, he would never neglect or harm me. Like any child within a loving family I am free to grow and flourish.

  1. Elizabeth Phillips permalink

    I needed this today, thank you. You write so beautifully and make sense of so many things I struggle with. Lizzie

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