“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12 (ESV)
Every word has a dictionary definition but many of us are not able to dictate them word for word. What comes much more easily is expressing the way a word makes us feel. For example, what comes to mind when you hear the word “discipline”? For me, discipline brings up thoughts of pain, strictness, rigidity, shame, trouble, consequences, anger, punishment, harshness… Your words may be different, but most likely they aren’t anything very positive either. Whatever you understand “discipline” to mean, it just isn’t something that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Even reading the definition can be a bit uncomfortable: “the practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not; the controlled behaviour or situation that is the result of this training;” (Oxford Dictionary). But should we feel this way about discipline?
Our current culture has a distaste for this language of “controlled behavior”, making people “obey rules”, and “punishing” those who go astray. The trend is to promote individuality, allow people to live how they want and we’ll all learn along the way what’s best for ourselves and those around us. Common phrases like “be yourself”, “follow your heart”, “you do you”, and “coexist” sound so uplifting and sweet – a world of acceptance where no one is being forced to do anything, no terrible punishments are being doled out, no trouble, shame, or pain… Hold on, let’s get back to reality.
We might be able to imagine this nice world in our heads, but no one can claim it’s working very well in actuality. Our world is wrought with fear, anxiety, depression, suicide, terror, racism, inequality, and an overall lack of peace. And no, it’s not because we just need to learn more “tolerance” for each other. A world where everyone goes their own way will always be one of chaos. Good cannot peacefully coexist with evil. Righteousness cannot tolerate sin. There is only one way to true life and peace and that is the way of Jesus (John 14:6).
Unfortunately, we are all sinners and evil does exist in this world. Is there any hope? Thankfully, we aren’t left on our own to find our way through the dark. God first and foremost sacrificed his son Jesus, to pay the penalty of death that all our sins carry. But he also told us directly the best way to live, the way in which we will find the most joy and fulfillment. He laid it all out in words, and by reading and studying those words in the Bible we can live in peace.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” -2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
Yet, as we all know, reading and understanding something doesn’t ensure we’ll live by it. Enter discipline: that word we kind of don’t like and want to avoid. God uses discipline to show us how to live in harmony with him and each other. Yes, he’s training us to obey rules. Yes, he’s punishing us if we stray from them. But it isn’t done in anger or to bring us shame. God isn’t being harsh or controlling. He is doing what it takes to bring his world back to what it was made for. He just wants to take his children from despair, bondage, and the sorrow of sin and lead them to freedom and hope. He disciplines out of love! Love! Now that’s a word we are all drawn to and no one thinks negatively about.
Discipline is rooted in love. Can you wrap your mind around that? Can you reframe your concept of discipline to include the alluring feelings of love? This is not to say discipline won’t be painful. Actions have consequences and God’s discipline involves teaching through the consequences, not avoiding them. It is love nonetheless. We give loving gestures to those whom we love and delight in, and for God, that’s us! Proverbs 3:11-12 and Revelation 3:19 say if we are being disciplined it is a sign of God’s love for us and that he is treating us as family!
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (ESV)
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11-12 (ESV)
How do we respond to God’s discipline? Do we run away? Do we ignore it? No! We accept it as God’s loving work and we love the Giver back by receiving his correction. If discipline and love still seem incompatible, we need only seek to be nearer to God and ask him to reveal to us more of his love.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” – Romans 11:33 (ESV)