A proper understanding of the shebet (translated “rod”) and its role in the Ancient Jewish world, along with an understanding that muwcar (translated “chastise” or “correct”) carries the connotation in Hebrew of “come let us reason together”, further combined with the absence of the modern idea of spanking in Torah, it is important that as believers we approach the idea of spanking with skepticism.
When something is required by God it is clearly explained and while we find directions for how often a slave may be beat with a rod and the penalty for the master whose blows lead to death we find no similar instructions on how to beat a child. Study into rabbinical teaching and understanding of what many Christians have come to refer to as “the rod verses” further reveals debate on whether these verses even refer to corporal punishment at all and, if they do, the exercise being limited to striking a young man across the face with a shoestring.
Ironically, the modern idea of spanking first appears as domestic discipline between sexual partners and such popular catchphrases within the Church as, “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, “a spanking should be done in love, never in anger”, and even reference to “the right way to spank” are actually references to the practice of Domestic Discipline. Even today the neophite to the internet learns very quickly not to Google “spanking”. Yet in many churches today the practice of spanking has not only become the primary method of parenting but it has been coupled to the Gospel in such a way that it is pure heresy. Christians who choose to not spank have their salvation questioned, even by pastors, and are told that their children will not be able to enter into salvation. This is incredibly troubling when one of the fastest growing religious movements in America, practicing pagans/witches, is so offended at the thought of spanking children that doing so is blatantly called abuse.
When churches partner the false doctrine of spanking to the Gospel, the spread of the Gospel to pagans is hindered.
Scripture makes plain what we must do to be saved. We must accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, who is God and man, on the cross. We must turn from our wicked ways and turn to the Lord. The Lord’s ways are given to us in Torah and as the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever we can trust that His standard remains. As James said, when the Council at Jerusalem issued a proclamation in Acts 15 that Gentile converts from paganism must do four things (the four elements of the pagan communion must be abandoned), the rest of Torah had been taught in Synagogues since the time of Moses.
When it is understood that the early believers were attending Synagogue weekly it can clearly be seen that the assumption was not that they would abandon Torah, but that Torah was not to be required as a prerequisite to faith, but as a way of living that would be learned as the believer grew in understanding and knowledge. We continue to have handed to us the complete Old and New Testament—all of which is our guide. Yet nothing in the Gospels or Torah speaks of spanking.
The Great Command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. “On this hangs all Torah and the Prophets.” The idea of neighbor is expounded upon in the parable of the Good Samaritan and the point, according to Jesus, is that each individual is the neighbor. Everyone is the neighbor. This includes children. The Great Commission is to go and make disciples of all nations—first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. Neither the Great Command nor the Great Commission is accompanied by an instruction to spank children.
Many who are drawn to paganism have shared that they came from a Christian upbringing in homes where the rod was not spared. They were beat in the name of Christ and therefore want nothing to do with him. Others, from more neutral backgrounds, are attracted to the teachings of Jesus himself but are offended by the way that believers treat children. Anyone who can preach love of neighbor while striking their children is considered a hypocrite and while the teachings of Jesus, who never struck a child, but embraced and blessed them, can be accepted the teachings of a church that insists on striking children is rejected. Many are confused at the linguistic olympics that go on within the church in an effort to redefine spankings as “not hitting, but discipline.”