April 21st, 2009
Focus Passage: Proverbs 13: 24 (NLT)
24 Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.
Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead
A passage like this immediately stirs the waters of controversy in our culture today. We want to strike up the conversation about spanking and corporal punishment. In my opinion, to let our energies over this verse be exhausted over those issues would be a distraction from the heart of the matter. This passage isn’t just about the specifics of discipline, but also about the attitude and indicators of loving parents.
Hate is a word that we rarely use regarding family. We may be upset with them, or even disgusted . . . but we reserve the term “hate” for people or things in our lives that churn up the most disdain. So to hear the phrase “hate their children” is to hear the usually unthinkable. No one–except for those whose minds are deranged– hates their own children.
Now, transfer this definition of hating children to our modern society and brace yourself to be shocked. What if we branded everyone in our culture who doesn’t discipline their children as “child-haters.” Wow!
Again, we could volley back and forth the debates about paddling, spanking, and whether or not a child should be physically punished. In the culture in which this passage was written, physical punishment was most definitely practiced. Furthermore, we must also realize that scriptures like these are not divine permission to abuse children. No, the Bible is riddled with instances in which hurting children is prohibited. Just examine Jesus’ fondness of them and His desire that they be near to Him. Discipline is not abuse and the Bible does not give misguided parents the permission to cross those lines.
What we do find is the concept of delayed gratification. To simply befriend children without recognizing that the season they are in requires adjustment, teaching, and also correction is to send them off to the war of life for which their basic training did not adequately prepare them. Soldiers who never learns how to fire a gun or endure physical hardship because a commanding officer was afraid to discipline them will not last two minutes in the heat of battle.
It’s not my favorite analogy, but it is true nonetheless. We are preparing our young ones for a world in which they will need more skills to survive than just friendship. Endurance. Integrity. Strength of character. Realistic understanding of consequences. Most of these valuable traits must be acquired through some level of correction. Scripture agrees so much so that it states that neglecting to help a child learn these is the same as hating them.
But this isn’t just about earthly parents and children. It’s also about our heavenly Parent and our own spiritual childhoods. Another key principle of scripture is that God applies His own truth to us as well. He is a Father who loves us enough to discipline us. If we have answered the call to be His children, He will offer correction when our feet begin to trod an inappropriate path. Literally, He “cares enough to discipline” us.
The “rod of correction” comes through hearing His word as it sears upon our hearts a difficult truth in the midst of our situation. Forgive. Love. Control yourself. Give until it hurts. Try again. We also feel His adjustment through the internal voice of His Spirit . . . guiding us and checking us when we begin to turn the wrong way. Finally, this correction can also come through the wisdom offered from godly mentors and counselors.
There are many who doubt that God speaks to us. In all actuality, what they inadvertently mean is that God isn’t speaking what they want to hear. Why? Because we are a generation that abhors discipline and correction.
Don’t look at the Father’s discipline as a lack of love. Nothing could be further from the truth! His adjustments in our lives are very real signs that He cares enough to help us change. That’s real love.
Today, I welcome whatever God thinks I need . . . even His discipline . . . I know, I know . . . you think I shouldn’t say that . . . that I’m opening myself up to some hardship. I want to grow to the point that I trust Him no matter what He brings to my life. The perfect Father knows best and even His discipline is a sign of love. What if we viewed His adjustments in this light instead of the light of resentment?
It could be an interesting change, don’t you think?