In my lifetime the US has moved from being a culture that believed in corporal punishment for children to one that looks with serious mistrust at anyone who would lay a finger on a child to discipline him or her.
At the same time, we’ve moved away from God, and in particular we’ve moved away from belief in God as a just and righteous judge who also disciplines for our good. He is actually our loving heavenly Father and yet He disciplines His children for our good.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Heb. 12:3-11)
In some ways I feel like I should bring this post to a close with an Amen and a period. Another part of me wants to launch into the positive effects of discipline on children and the Biblical admonition to parents not to neglect the same.
But the real issue, I think, is that we as a culture no longer like a God who judges, who disciplines.
Recently I’ve seen various people respond to portions of Scripture that identify God as a judge, as a God who brings upon an oppressor the consequences of his own acts. The best I can say is, people—Christians—are uncomfortable with it. In one instance, a person ignored the point of the passage and turned it into something that was not there, something related to God’s forgiveness.
God is forgiving. We can never forget that. But one way He brings us to a place where we ask for forgiveness is by applying the rod of correction to our derrieres. God lovingly, kindly, and with our good at heart, allows us to suffer the consequences of our own actions.
Why? Why would He not rescue us from all trouble, even the trouble of our own making?
Because God has greater things in mind for us than our immediate comfort and ease. God wants good things for us, no doubt. But the highest good is that we become conformed to the image of His Son. That’s what Romans 8:29 tells us: “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (emphasis mine).
“Become conformed.” How does that happen?
The same way silver or gold is refined—by the application of heat. The same way an orange tree produces abundant fruit—by being pruned.
God disciplines, not because He’s angry or wrathful, out of control and intolerant of those who don’t see things His way.
He disciplines because He loves us. He knows what we sometimes ignore or can’t see—that our wayward path leads to death. That we’re headed for destruction.
What kind of parent would allow his child to sit down with a knife beside an electric outlet? Or unsupervised, play with a pile of matches?
We would consider parents that turn away from danger and let their kids “learn the hard way,” neglectful and even abusive.
The great danger before us as humans is what is ahead of us in eternity. The fire we want to play with is the fire of hell. God in his great love calls us to Himself. When we turn away, He pursues us and disciplines us and judges us so that we will know Him. So that we will turn from our wicked ways, see Him as the Savior our hearts long for, and call to Him in repentance and trust.
Yes, God spanks. But like all loving fathers, He also holds us as we cry against His shoulder, as we tell Him we’re sorry and that we will amend our ways.
He spanks and He comforts because He wants us to grow up to be like Jesus.