What’s one thing I wish I knew when I started preaching the gospel?
… I wish I knew God’s intention for disciplining us
Growing up my brother and I were quite mischievous. Needless to say this behaviour led to loads of disciplining from our parents. One thing that haunted me, even into my adulthood, was that our mom used ‘cleaning the whole house!’ as a form of discipline. One reason this still haunts me even to this day is that when it comes to cleaning my own home, I still relate the task to discipline rather than responsibility. I totally misunderstood my mothers’ purpose for this kind of disciplining. Her intention was never to make me hate cleaning, but rather to teach me that there’s consequence to my wrong doing and that I need to take responsibility for my actions and grow.
I carried this limited view of discipline into my faith. I couldn’t wrap my mind around Hebrews 12:6:
‘The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child’.
The question of how a loving God could discipline his children kept replaying in my mind. My idea of discipline was that it wasn’t beneficial to me, just a punishment for its own sake. Why would God want to punish me and add to my already burdened life? I thought Jesus said that his yoke was supposed to be easy and his burden light.
Truth be told, I feared God’s action towards my wrong doing. I hated the thought of it because deep down I knew that God, just like my mom, was right to discipline me but it never felt good.
I’m now the father of a beautiful two year-old girl, and let’s just say I finally understand the term ‘the terrible twos’. Little Bailey is at the age where through discipline, her mom and I are trying to balance her moral compass and help her understand the difference between right and wrong. The method we’ve implemented is the infamous ‘naughty corner’. If she does something wrong, she goes into the corner for a couple of minutes. What I’ve learned is that disciplining Bailey hurts me as much as it hurts her. I find it hard to hear her crying knowing that I’m partly the cause of it by subjecting her to a discipline process. But, our intention as parents is not to cause Bailey any pain, it is to align her to a code of ethics that is beneficial for her and those God will one day call her to serve. We’re raising her for God and that she would be a blessing to others, and not just for ourselves. It’s ourlove for her that means we implement discipline so that she can grow well into who God created her to be.
I’m understanding more and more of God’s heart in disciplining his children. The purpose of his discipline is holiness, to help us become holy as he is holy (1 Pt 1:15-16). The motive behind the purpose is love, he loves us too much to let us stay the same broken people we are, even though he loves us as we are. The result of his discipline in our lives is a greater obedience on our part. We become responsible children of the kingdom, peacemakers instead of chaos bringers. We become more devoted children, his discipline actually brings us closer to him.
I wish I understood the loving disipline of God better when I started sharing the gospel. The message I communicated in my limited knowledge of him was often a God that was quick to punish for its own sake, rather than a Father ready to love us into holiness. Knowing the truth of his loving discipline helps me communicate the gospel more effectively, helping me to portray God for who he is: a perfect loving father, ready to discipline us so that we can grow in holiness, but always willing to forgive.
‘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.’ (Heb 12:10-11)
Shaun Pretorius, Message South Africa