This post is not well-thought through yet, so it may ramble a bit. But I wanted to get it down somewhere other than my head. Things have a way of getting lost in there. I was driving down the road thinking about the disciplining of our children, a topic that seems to be all too relevant at this stage of life. The argument I was having with myself concerned the apparent contradiction between a consistent enforcement and reinforcement of the standard in our home through biblical discipline (the rod) and the central message of the gospel which is forgiveness and mercy. We always try to bring each time of discipline to a point of forgiveness and reconciliation, but it always follows the rod. Is that a contradiction of biblical forgiveness in which Jesus endured our punishment in our place? Are my children getting a picture of God where He punishes first then forgives? I knew the answer to the question was “No”, but I wasn’t sure why that was the correct answer.
I came away from that little debate inside my head with this realization. The discipline is the mercy! Think about it…when my children disobey me, thereby disobeying God as well, what would be a just punishment? Condemnation, separation, death. What has God ordained that they receive instead? The loving, corrective hand of a father or mother that strikes at the heart of that deadly sin. They deserve a rod of death (Dt. 21:18-21) and receive the rod of life. I cannot truly teach forgiveness to my children by withholding correction. How merciful is it to save my children from the dungeon without disciplining their hearts to love the light? In the end, they will always drift toward the shadows.
I need to do a better job of showing my kids that the rod is an instrument of mercy; that the God-ordained discipline they receive is a means of growing up in faithfulness to the life given to us through Christ. I want my children to grow frustrated with their own sinfulness. I never want them to get comfortable with discipline or just accept it as a normal part of life. I want them to hate the futility of their own hearts to be faithfully and joyfully obedient. Here the faithful and joyful obedience of Christ in their place shines forth. But I also want my children to see the rod and the hand that wields it as a merciful good that not only drives them to Christ but grows them up into Christ. I want the forgiveness they experience after being disciplined to provide for them the assurance that the Lord disciplines those He loves, that the Word will prevail over the flesh, that the stripes they receive are for their healing not their condemnation. Here the richness of their adoption and inheritance through the death of Christ shines forth as well.
Discipline without forgiveness is punishment. Forgiveness without discipline is futility. The gospel brings both peace and hope; life and promise.