This past Sunday we had a guest speaker at church, a pastor with a children’s home ministry. The ministry began with a home in southwestern Virginia, and has expanded to an orphanage in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. Both children’s homes are in poor, mountainous communities—the former the region where my late great-grandmother lived. Both orphanages do amazing work with the kids, combining work (like gardening, feeding donkeys, and the like) with play—even a band!
In giving his talk about the ministry, the guest pastor referenced a few passages of Scripture. Aside from the famous passage from Matthew 19:14 in which Jesus told the disciples to “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” the pastor also referenced Exodus 22:22-24, which deals with how widows and orphans are to be treated:
22You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. 23If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to Me in distress, I will surely hear their cry. 24My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; then your wives will become widows and your children will be fatherless.
It’s a pretty powerful passage, and a reminder that God doesn’t mess around with sin, especially against the weakest and most defenseless. We like to think that God has “mellowed out” since sending Jesus to die for our sins, but that’s dangerously wishful thinking. God doesn’t change, and His Wrath is still mighty.
Of course Jesus freed us from many of the particulars of Old Testament law (we can eat scallops now—hurray!), but many of the principles of the old Law remain True, or at least contain valuable wisdom. The law here—a prohibition against mistreating widows and orphans—and the punishment—death—are entirely fitting.
The idea on the surface isn’t unconventional: it takes a real low-life to take advantage of some of society’s least-advantaged members. Yet horror stories of physical, mental, and sexual abuse of minors abound within the foster systems of various States. The trope of the wicked stepmother in fairy tales doubtless has roots, tragically, in reality: aside from the difficulty of bounding with non-biological children, and wanting the most resources and honors to go to one’s biological children, there’s also the unfortunately high incidences of sexual mistreatment of fostered orphans.
Predators have an easy target in orphaned children: the children are young, confused, and afraid. They are unlikely to report what has happened to them, or to to even know what has happened to them.
Such an extreme wickedness deserves an equally extreme punishment. The wisdom of Exodus 22:24 is clear: death is the penalty for such sinfulness.
Naturally, due process, etc., should be observed—and even more strictly than usual—in such cases. There are too many examples of wrongful imprisonment over hyped-up sexual abuse charges to toss around such a penalty haphazardly.
But the ultimate price for buggering children is the ultimate deterrent to such deviant behavior: if Greasy George knows he could face the electric chair for violating an innocent, he might try harder to contain his unnatural urges.
I’m loathe to give the state even more power over our lives, but protecting the weak and innocent is one of the few things government is supposed to do. In this area, then, we should welcome more vehement prosecution of and punishment for these crimes.
Pray for the sweet innocents. They need our prayers now desperately.