With the Michael Jackson verdict looming and an eighteen year old girl lost and presumed dead in the island nation of Aruba, the country's attention has turned to crimes against children. There is, seemingly, no more horrible crime than that committed against innocent children for whom life has so much potential. The consequences of such crimes are life long for both the victim and the perpetrator, but especially for the victim as he still has his entire life ahead. Much care, love, and devotion is necessary to nurse such an individual back to mental health and recovery from his ordeal. Too, while we have less sympathy for the perpetrator (and for good reason), this individual needs help and while justice must be served in a nation that is governed by law, a compassionate nation will do what they can to get help for such an individual.
When offenses come in reference to children (or anyone) we ought to take to heart the words of Jesus in Luke 17:1,2 "It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." But Jesus continues in that very same passage with these words, "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:3,4). There is forgiveness available, but it would be infinitely better if the harm had never occurred in the first place. So what can we do to prevent such horrors in ours and the lives of others?
First, we must begin with ourselves. Unfortunately, we live in a world where each of us has the potential to commit horrible crimes. The Bible says that all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and that there are none that are righteous (Romans 3:10). Sin is something that we must grapple with on a daily basis and 1 Corinthians 10:12 still says, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." But we're not simply at the mercy of our own personal passions in this regard. The Bible gives us the tools in order to overcome sin in our life. We absolutely MUST apply these tools in our own personal lives to prevent such awful tragedies. These tools include: A. prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), B. confessing our faults to one another (James 5:16), C. studying God's word (2 Timothy 2:15, Psalm 119:11), D. leaning and relying upon our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:1-7), E. exercising self examination and personal restraint (2 Corinthians 13:5), F. understanding the fear of God (Hebrews 10:31). There are more, no doubt, but if these are used and applied properly, it would go a long way toward eliminating sin in our life.
Second, we must educate our children on the potential dangers. Certainly educating children in regard to such dangers is a concern in the scriptures. On several occasions in the book of Proverbs, the writer addresses his "son" and gives warning concerning the evils of the world. Proverbs 1:8 states, "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother" and in Proverbs 1:10 we read, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." We need to make sure that our children understand that anyone can be a sinner, not just those who "look like" sinners. This means we have to instruct our children on what is and what isn't appropriate behavior for that is the only way in which they will know who is and isn't a sinner. The boy scouts have a great program in this regard. Every year they encourage parents to go through standard safety materials with their child so that he will be aware of the various dangers that are in the world and how to react to those dangers when confronted. These materials are available to anyone who wants them on the Internet and by request.
Third, we must exercise constant vigilance. 1 Peter 5:8 states, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Unfortunately, we live in a society where almost everyone must be a suspect when it comes to protecting our children. Someone, somewhere, is always lurking around the corner just waiting for that opportunity. And such could happen any place and at any time. We simply can't afford to let our guard down. We must maintain a sober attitude toward these things and not allow poor judgment and distraction to cloud our vision.
When these crimes occur, admittedly, we feel helpless. But we don't have to be helpless victims. We can take preventative action in our lives and for the lives of our children. For the sake of our children, we simply can't afford not to be proactive. While other individuals are responsible for their evil behavior, we must also take responsibility by not giving such individuals the opportunity to behave wickedly. Admittedly, even when we are proactive, there are still cases in which individuals are affected, but we can drastically reduce the risk through our behavior and vigilance. I hope that no one I know ever has to go through something as horrible as having their child harmed by one of these predators and I ask that you join me in prayer that our children will never experience such.