Tuesday, July 18, 2017

God's True Love of Discipline vs. a "Love-On" Only God

Anyone who has been a parent, or has had to supervise children in any capacity, knows that sometimes, to keep children safe—either from others, dangerous natural situations or from their own developmental immaturity and lack of discernment—discipline is required.

We don’t casually sit back and watch as a three-year-old toddles closer and closer to vehicular traffic. 

We don’t wave at a child about to jump from a too high structure. 

We don’t shrug our shoulders when a child elects to eat only pop tarts and potato chips. 

And we don’t say “Oh well, whatever” when those under our charge steal, blow-off their chores, physically hurt someone, lie, use foul language or strut around the house in a belligerent attitude.

In essence, we don’t let youth get their way when they are threatened or rebellious.

Instead, we alert and redirect when danger lurks.

We teach and explain why something is questionable or wrong.

We advise as to the pros and cons of pending decisions.

We steer them clear of negative influences, hold them accountable to promises made, and yes, we dole out punishment for infractions (in today’s world, punishment is often re-phrased as “consequences”).

We do this, hopefully, within a firm but loving countenance. But we do it. Not only because it is our responsibility as parents, but mostly because we love our kids.

What parent would never set a boundary or delve out repercussions for unruly, disobedient, selfish, quarrelsome and threatening words or behavior? Not any that I’ve ever known or heard of.

Although I have observed lax, enabling, lenient and indulgent parents, even they draw a line—some later rather than sooner—after the problematic situation slowly, like a marshmallow over a campfire, evolves from a warm, toasty-golden brown into a hideous, burnt monstrosity.

The point being, we readily and unquestioningly accept that the parental discipline of a child is simply another form of loving a child (let me be clear: normal, healthy discipline, not abuse!).

So why is it, then, that many people are uncomfortable, dismissive or even in disagreement with the truth that, first of all, God does indeed discipline, and second of all, that He is loving us in that correction?

Why is it that people, created by God Himself, can dish out punishment to their children as a way of keeping them secure, imparting integrity and preserving their innocence, but God cannot?

I think the place where many people get stuck in the lily pads is in their benign take on God as love.

“God is love,” people adore to opine. Although true—God, indeed, is love—God is also Creator, Judge and Redeemer.

He is unchanging, immutable, sovereign and just. All of it, all the time.

We miss out when we choose to paddle our canoe with only the oar of God’s love while telling ourselves there is no place for justice, discipline or correction within that love.

Hebrews can’t make it any more clear:

“and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,


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.” Hebrews 12:5-11

When people absently toss out the pretty sound-bite,

God just wants to love-on you!” 

I, after wincing, am compelled to ask,

“What does that even look like?”  

How do we apply the “love-on” principle when someone intentionally cheats, cusses, lies, steals, thinks ill thoughts of their neighbor, gossips, covets material things in their heart, etc.

How does God “love-on” us in that? Does He look the other way? Pretend not to notice? Does He simply say,

“No worries, you are covered by the blood of Christ, it’s all good?”

Is God neutral towards us?

That is the sense I pick up from every person and church that adheres to the “love-on” school of “life in community.” We’re all so endearingly charming because of our foibles. God is so accommodating, so docile, so lenient!

But in reality, is He? (And do we sincerely want Him to be? Do we, as parents, want to be accommodating, docile and lenient when our offspring misbehave? Would that be loving them, or raising spoiled brats?)

Look closely: is life falling apart?
Are relationships stagnating or deteriorating?
Do difficulties at work take their toll?

That is the point! God is not accommodating, docile and lenient when it comes to sin!

On the contrary, God is trying to get our attention through these difficulties: not through hand-holding that condones continued disobedience or setting low expectations that never overcome. And certainly not by throwing Biblical discipleship out the window in favor of some vague “love-on” pat on the back!

Satan is the one who wants all of that. Satan wants to make it okay for us to never have to suffer in the sense of being accountable to personal sin to the point that we then overcome it.

With a “love-on” God, we languish from our not ever grasping the cause and the point of our suffering (because God is just too nice to ever hurt our feelings).

Therefore, we are never freed from whatever is tripping us up. Sin becomes its own suffering. All because we became enamored with a kindly, grandfatherly, “love-on” God void of discipline.

This is merely a figment of our desire for nonconformity to the God of Scripture. In this, we give ourselves permission to never grow up.

A right understanding of God as Love, on the other hand, necessitates God as Judge: of our heart, words and actions. 

When we spiritually, mentally and emotionally comprehend this truth, we will begin to thank God for His discipline, even though it at times appears harsh, feels traumatic and seems unfair (from a worldly, human perspective).

Then, having apprenticed under his corrective “time outs,” we begin to experience the fruits of the Spirit, allowing us to

“not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 in part).

A consistent, sure way to renew our minds is through the reading of Scripture, which 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

As the Hebrews verse mentioned earlier points out, to those who are trained in righteousness by God’s discipline, they will be cleansed, freed and imbued with peace. 

So we don’t recoil, we trust; and we don’t take offense, we receive.

What parent doesn’t hope for that response from their own child?

It follows then, since we, too, are children—God’s very own—that we would desire the same response from ourselves to His upbringing of us.

copyright Barb Harwood

“I shall give thanks to you with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.” Psalm 119:7

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD
Or loathe His reproof,
For whom the LORD loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom He delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:6-10

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