In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood [contempt]. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
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 our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, 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.
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root [Wormwood: Bitterness] grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
~ Hebrews 12:4-16
Discipline is something which is done out of love. When you discipline your child, you’re doing so as a means of protecting them from wrong decisions that can bring them harm. Many parents believe that by teaching their children what’s right that they’ll automatically learn what’s wrong too. But I don’t believe that’s true.
We all need to be taught what is right AND what is wrong. Knowing one does not mean automatic knowledge of the other. And discipline is for our own good, so that we might live in a peaceful and gracious manner, avoid trouble, and so be spared from harm.
But some people cling to this idea that God is mean. They picture some dictator sitting on a throne in Heaven, watching us, and dishing out punishment to whomever He sees fit, and for whatever reason He deems appropriate.
Simply — NO.
God shows no favouritism (Romans 2:11). God is Truth and Love, therefore the Truth shows no favouritism. And Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). God, a living being, is not consciously watching your every move, judging you on the spot, and choosing to exact discipline. God created the Heavens and the Earth, and all that is in them. The creation is finished. It was finished a long time ago. How God made things is “truth”, small “t”, and there are many truths in existence. Science is truths, small “t”. So whether there was a Big Bang, a mixture of elements, evolution, or any other means of creation… it really doesn’t matter. HOW God creates is His business and in no way negates or refutes His existence.
The mind of God is Truth: The ability to reason, to use logic. If the Truth shows no favouritism, and the Creation was finished a long time ago — truths, small “t” were established and remain unchanging — then how does the Truth judge? How does the Truth discipline? What is God’s discipline?
The simplest example: God made fire to be hot. And He warned us, like children are warned, “Use it wisely, but don’t touch it. If you touch it, you’ll get burned.” That is a truth. It’s unchanging. It’s fact. It just is what it is. It enforces itself. God isn’t hiding around the corner, watching to see if you’re going to touch the stove, and then zapping you with a burning sensation on your hand and chuckling about it. No, the Truth has already established that the consequence for sticking your hand in the fire is that you’re going to get burned. There’s no malice in that. There’s no hatred. It’s not God being mean to you. It’s the Truth doing what it was created to do — fire is hot, touch it and get burned.
But in our getting burned, is that not discipline? Does it not teach us, “NO! Next time I won’t touch that because it hurts. Fire is useful, but you have to be careful with it.” So in the end, God — the Truth — did, in fact, discipline us. And the discipline was for our own good — that we learn and hopefully not again repeat the mistake we made by touching something we shouldn’t have.
Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes we do things we shouldn’t do and we get disciplined for it. But stop taking it so personal — the Truth is disciplining EVERYONE. We can’t change the rules of life. God is the Creator and He created things a certain way. Those ways are unchangeable. And they are enforced — even the Truth Himself can’t change them because there’s no lie found in the Truth. But get the idea of a vindictive, meanie God sitting on a throne thinking up ways of making your life miserable out of your head right now.
As a child, I was ONLY disciplined when I did something wrong that I had been told not to do. And while my dad is the one who doled out the punishment, it was MY CHOICE that led to the discipline in the first place. It was MY CHOICE to disobey and do what I knew was wrong that led to my getting punished. It wasn’t my dad choosing to be mean and discipline me. My dad told me what was acceptable behaviour and what wasn’t, and explained that if I didn’t follow the rules, there would be consequences. And by going ahead and doing the very thing I was warned time and again NOT TO DO, by making a conscious decision to DO it… I only reaped the consequences of MY chosen behaviour.
The Lord deals with us in the very same way. He has laid out for us rules which are put there to protect us from the Evil One, the Devil, Falsehood and Hatred, and made it very clear that if we obey these rules of creation then we’ll be blessed by the blessings the Creator put in the creation. But if we disobey them, we’ll reap a curse. We’ll be disciplined.
Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:36-40)
The next time you find yourself on the receiving end of discipline — which is never fun when it’s happening — just remember that the spirit of God is Love. Discipline is given in the hopes of preventing future harm. And the Lord disciplines those He loves. He’s not being mean. If your choices lead to you being disciplined for them, that’s not God being a jerk. That’s the Truth reminding you that you aren’t God, and you can’t change what already is.
And in fact, that voice in your head that you hear right before you make a bad decision? That feeling that washes over you that maybe you shouldn’t do this? That was God. That was the Truth warning you, “Wait a minute, don’t do that!” God is the exact opposite of being some cruel dictator. Even after providing us with all the necessary tools and wisdom to get along, He STILL loves us enough to try and stop us from making mistakes. We have free choice — He’s not going to MAKE us do anything. He’s not going to step in and force a stop to our hurting each other. We’re all equipped with a mind to reason and a heart with the ability to love. It’s our choice. The Truth shows no favouritism. And He’s not a dictator. But all those times when you feel like you shouldn’t do something, that maybe it’s a mistake… that’s the Lord watching out for you. But it’s up to you whether or not you listen to Him.
It’s our choice to be disciplined, not God’s. We make the mistakes in life, and our actions, decisions and choices can also impact other people, not just ourselves. So the next time you’re tempted to blame God for this thing that hasn’t gone right in your life, first consider that you may just be tangled in the consequences of yours or even someone’s else’s bad choices. And again, WE make those choices, God doesn’t.
It’s always our choice. Always. Choose wisely and the Truth will bless you.
The very first sentence of today’s post was, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood [contempt].” I highlighted the word “blood” and added that blood is referring to contempt. Later, I also highlighted, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root [Wormwood: Bitterness] grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Bitterness is Wormwood! Revelation warns us of allowing bitterness to rise up in ourselves and letting it take root. How many of us feel bitter when we’re disciplined? How hard is it to control our bitterness when someone wrongs us, or we do something wrong and we’re called to account for it? How many people cry out with bitterness at God, “Why did you do this to me?!” when life’s tribulations come knocking? Don’t give bitterness a foothold, bitterness will destroy you. Because bitterness only leads to hatred, and hatred is the spirit of Falsehood the Devil.
There’s something valuable to be learned in all situations, good and bad. Even the death of someone you love should help teach you compassion, mercy, and instill a love of life in you. But if you choose not to shed your blood, and to hold onto your contempt, to allow yourself to be filled with bitterness, then you’re choosing your own punishment. It’s not God doing anything to you. You’re doing it to yourself. Your choice.
Didn’t Jesus shed His blood for the salvation of all who choose to accept Him? Even after it was the choices of wicked men who led to His being on the cross in the first place, and not something He did?
If Jesus could shed His contempt, surely we can too.
Today’s paintings are: Orazio Gentileschi’s “The Mocking of Christ”, sometime between 1628-30 and 1635; Jacek Malczewski’s “Christ before Pilate”, 1910; James Tissot’s “The Kiss of Judas”, 1886-94, and an unknown artist’s rendering of “Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock”.