Friday, March 18, 2005

True Discipline

From: My Father and Your Father

Most of us have had trouble with the disciplining aspect of the Father’s parenting. We have trouble with it because we were taught an unbalanced message about correction. This is the gospel of correction. In this teaching, we are encouraged to see ourselves as defective rather than dependent and the Father as judicial rather than loving. Where this distortion comes from is out of our own judgementalism. And our judgementalism arises not from our Christ indwelt human spirit but from (you guessed it) the Satan indwelt flesh.
It does not matter whether we are speaking of our own correction or the correction of others. If we see disciplining by the Father as punishment because the person being punished is “no good” or even just “not quite good enough” we are being judgemental. The truth is that we are being grown up to the full stature of Christ that the Father desires for each of us. The growth process by necessity involves some error. Error, in its turn requires correction. This is not a big deal if we remember that we are well-loved children being grown and instructed by a loving Father.
The word translated “punishes” in Hebrews 12:6 is really the word for “scourge.” This is not a judicial punishment for wrong doing but is a correction in the sense of an experiential teaching. One of the hardest things that any of us must come to accept about ourselves is the fact that we are not perfect. We all have ways of getting around the fact that we are just plain rotten in our natural self. We are “not quite as bad as Hitler” but we are “good in the important things."
But the plain fact of the matter is that we, in our souls, need a lot of work. Fortunately, we have a loving Father that is willing to do that work.It is a loving Father that will not indulge his children in their errors and imperfections. Such indulgences was the sin of Eli (1Samuel 2:30-33). The truly loving father corrects and disciplines his children for their improvement. This is often referred to as “tough love.” This is the kind of love the Father has for us. The loving Father will not indulge His children’s misdeeds. In this same way, the loving Father does not punish judicially. We are not punished to make up for our errors. We are corrected to bring us away from our errors and this is a big distinction. Correction is for learning and not “paying dues.”
In order to see this distinction, we must come beyond the superficial idea of pleasant and unpleasant. These distinctions are important to the physical part of us but they are nearly so important in the spiritual. All correction is unpleasant: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) The question we must all ask ourselves is this: In the end, if we submit to correction we will end up not only with righteousness and peace but also a better kind of pleasure than we could have any other way.
We need to keep in mind the true face of adversity. In physical understanding it is easy and natural to see hardship as punishment. This is not necessarily or even often true. The hardships allowed by the Father in our lives are as much for our growth and instruction as anything. Seeing difficulties exclusively or even primarily as punishment causes the age-old dilemma of “why do bad things happen to good people?” We grow in adversity if we let the Father work that growth in us.


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