Punishment

In the previous post, I closed by saying that I would follow up on the remainder of Arlan’s comment. After the first paragraph, the first statement made which I feel needs to be addressed is:

We childern of God are punished by God for our disobedience…

All of the following statements are found in the Bible:

God sends rain on the just and the unjust.
(God) gives generously to all without finding fault.
Every good and perfect gift is from (God).
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

I know that Arlan’s statement is a widely held belief in many Christian circles. However, I disagree with that assertion. I do not believe God punishes me or anyone else for disobedience. The author of the book of Hebrews asks:

How shall we escape, if we neglect such great salvation?

And, from a Christian perspective, what, beside punishment or judgement, should we be concerned with escaping? Whether there are things that may be escaped in addition to punishment, this verse clearly says that escaping punishment is possible. Also, from Hebrews:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.

Judgement and punishment, whatever that might entail, does not occur in this lifetime. It follows, then, that if, as adult Christians, we do not face or undergo punishment and we are training children to become adult Christians, then we do not need to train them to face or undergo punishment. Secondly, claiming that we do need that training as children would imply that adults who grew up in an environment that was free of punishment could not become Christians.

In my somewhat limited experience, I have found that one of the characters in the Old Testament which is often overlooked is Job. Briefly, Job went through a series of tragedies in his life. Before telling the story of those tragedies and his response to it, Job is described as:

blameless and upright

(i.e. Someone who didn’t deserve punishment.) In Job’s first response to those tragedies, he says:

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

In the next 30 chapters or so, Job elaborates on that by saying what amounts to, “I’ve been judged.” And that is what he was afraid of. An example of the type of things he says is:

Let God weigh me with accurate scales, And let God know my integrity.

He expressed that he believes he has been judged unfairly. The situation abates when Job admits:

Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand.

I will say here that anyone afraid of judgement does not understand. I am going to finish this segment of my discussion of discipline versus punishment with another quote from James:

…judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!

From a Christian perspective, having mercy toward others is the proverbial life boat. If a Christian parents want to train their children toward escaping punishment then the children should be trained to be merciful. And if the parents want to escape it themselves, they need to be merciful toward their children (as well as everyone else).

This is a bit of a departure from my usual writing, but I feel it needs to be said. Whether or not you needed to read it, I needed to say it.

About Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 - 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.

Comments

  1. I read it, I needed to read it, and thanks for writing it. Certainly the overall Christian message I took away from my youth entailed the perfecting of the act of looking for and understanding one’s mistakes or sins, seeking forgiveness for these and on the other side perfecting the art of forgiveness. The message was also almost entirely pacifist, and habitually against the use of violence in almost any context.

  2. Ron, thanks for the response. I fully agree that we can suffer without having done wrong (per Job) and that the full and ultimate judgment for our sins is delivered by God alone.

    Can you give me a bit of commentary on Hebrews 12:7 so I can better understand your perspective? (To save a lookup, the verse is “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for waht son is there whom a father does not chasten?”)

    Thanks,
    Arlan

  3. I’m finding this useful, if not perhaps in the same way as others. It’s your blog. Write about what you think it is important to write about. Since there is a lot of discussion of this sort of thing at the moment, it is good to have a different perspective.

  4. I’m wondering (as a non-christian, though I did attend Baptist churches for the first 15 years of my life) just how helpful the bible is here. Seeing as ‘both sides’ – to simplify soemwhat – seem to find ample justifications for their viewpoint where does that leave anyone? ISTM, from the outside as it were, that people find within the bible justification/guidance for whatever point of view they already have.

  5. ChrisF – Yes, people can find justification in the Bible for whatever viewpoint they already have – IF they take one or two verses out of context. The Bible is not meant to be read or followed that way. It is a whole and complete work – both the New Testament and the Old Testament are needed to get a complete picture of who God is and how He desires us to live. You cannot take the verses about a parent needing to chasten (or discipline) a child if he truly loves the child without also taking the verses in Ephesians that say a father should not provoke his children to anger. Discipline must be done in love. It must be done with a desire to help a child grow into the person God wants him or her to be – not with a desire to control the child by instilling fear. And yes, the Bible does say that God chastens us because He loves us, but I believe the idea is more discipline – letting us suffer the consequences of our choices or actions – rather than punishment.

  6. Carlotta – Thank you. Yes, sound much like what I was taught as a child with 2 exceptions that I can think of in the area of pacifism – corporal punishment and war (eg. WW II).

    Arlan – Consider substituting the word correction for chasten instead of punish. Chasten means to make chaste, but that meaning gives no indication of the means by which the chasteness is developed. The letters of the New Testament were written to correct groups of believers who were getting on the wrong track. Which did Jesus do, correct or punish His disciples?

    Jo – Thanks. I appreciate knowing that someone is benefitting from it. tbh, though, likely I will benefit the most because preparing to write gives me alot to think about.

    Chris – valid point and on the last statement, I agree with you. however, whenever 2 lawyers go into court they take with them the cases that they believe will support their argument. Likewise, doctors examine and diagnose patients based on information they have from medical sources and come to different diagnoses. Different viewpoints from the same reference material is not limited to the discussion of religion or philosophy. If nothing else is gained, at the very least, a number of people will have had the opportunity to express themselves. And that alone, IMO, makes the discussion worthwhile. OT: Glad to see you use WordPress.

  7. This is a very interesting discussion – thank you for sharing/ hosting it here Ron.

    Hi Chris, nice to see you over here!

  8. Okay, fair enough.

    Going just a bit off-topic, I think there is a tendency in our whole society to overrate the physical. A lot of secular mores are based on the idea that there is nothing worse than death, and right behind that comes physical suffering.

    To me, a complete ban on physical discipline is an extension of that. Proper physical discipline is not a very traumatic thing. That is one part of the reason why it is inappropriate for older kids–as they mature, they realize that a little physical pain is very easily borne with.

    Ron, to your question, you are distinguishing “correct” and “punish” in a way that I would not (within these kinds of contexts). I believe that when Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, it was punishment. And I believe it hurt Peter worse than the lashings he recieved later for following Christ.

    Along those lines, a father I knew once told of trying an alternative discipline on his kids. His two boys were fighting and the father began to read out of the gospel about hating one’s brother. It affected the older boy so much that the father said he would never do it again. I think it made him feel that he was playing the part of the accuser of the brethren.

    I appreciate hearing about alternative disciplines such as the one mentioned earlier in the thread about wearing pajamas to school. They can be more effective than physical punishment in some cases.

    More important than the method of discipline is that there be discipline. Whether the children control or obey the parents is not determined simply by whether the parent has ever spanked the child.

    I agree.