Thursday, March 19, 2015

Discipline: An Act of Love

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  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 12:5-11 NIV)

While eating breakfast last week at the homeless shelter in Atlanta, the two women at my table went on and on about how bad it was living there.  One said it was like a jail; the other said the people running the place were mean.  This was not the typical attitude of the women I met, but there were a few who felt they should be able to do whatever they wanted and be treated better.  Most, however, understood the rules, and one even told me that those who chafed at them probably had never had discipline in their lives.

Let’s face it, none of us likes to be disciplined.  We would much rather people tell us what we want to hear and allow us to do what we want. And it seems the culture continues to head further in this direction, with the Church slowly following.  The important thing, it appears, is to be liked, for people to be happy, and everyone to feel good. On campus, we are told we should tolerate everything (except intolerance) and celebrate every way of life (diversity).  Critical opinions of certain views or lifestyles are often considered “offensive.”

In such an environment, can there really be discipline?  Can anyone be told what he believes or what she is doing is wrong, or at least not beneficial to them or others?  The increasing evidence points to no, there cannot.  If we are to be considered loving, then we must allow people to believe and do what they want without expressing any objection or, if it is within our authority, implementing any consequences.  In other words, we are not allowed to truly love people.

If you are objecting right now, consider the words of this passage: “the Lord disciplines the one he loves.”  Discipline, rather than being a form of punishment, is rather an expression of love.  It may not be received as such, but it is.  When parents establish rules and consequences for violating them, it is out of love for their children.  The rules at the City of Refuge are in place because those running it love the homeless and want what’s best for them.  And when the Lord lays out rules for how we are to live our lives, it is not out of a desire to make us miserable or spoil our fun.  Rather, He is seeking to protect us and help us to grow into the men and women He created us to be.  

As the Hebrew writer says, we will not enjoy being corrected or suffering the consequences of our wrong thinking and behavior, but the point of discipline is not to make us feel good, but to get us back, or keep us on, the right track toward experiencing the blessings God ultimately has in store for us.  

Today, recognize discipline is a necessary tool for the Lord to use in your life in order to mold you into the man or woman He created you to be.  If He were to allow you to do whatever you pleased just so you would be happy, the truth is He wouldn’t truly love you at all.

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