Wednesday, August 21, 2013

God as parent, part 2: relationship(s) with God, exposited

Welcome to the third post in the series Relationship(s) with God, Exposited and part two of the topic God as Parent; feel free to get caught up on part one. Once again, here's my disclaimer: I don't have any children, but I have closely observed parents (including my own) with the expectation of someday becoming one.

Back in part one, I gave an overview of the way God loves all His children by default and that His affections bubble over once we decide to become His spiritual offspring (through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ).  That piece ended with a nod towards discipline--the necessary evil of parenting--and that is the focus of this installment.  Just for clarity's sake, here's a thorough definition:


[dis-uh-plin] noun; verb, dis·ci·plined, dis·ci·plin·ing.

1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill: military discipline.
2. activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
3. punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.: the harsh discipline of poverty.
5. behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control: good discipline in an army.

There are plenty of instances in the Bible where disciplining a child is prescribed as the remedy for a young life ending--or even beginning--in despair.  One of my grandmother's favorites when I was growing up was "Don't spare the rod and spoil the child". [Proverbs 23:13-14 That verse implies corporal punishment, known locally as a "cut arse" [Caribbeanspeak for spanking], but we all know that discipline can be inflicted in MANY more ways than just physically.  In more general terms, we read that "The Lord chastens whom He loves" [Hebrews 12:6 and there are several examples in the Bible where God did that in two ways: proactively and reactively.

Samson, of Old Testament fame, is one of the first names that comes to mind in the case of reactive discipline. He deliberately disobeyed God's assignment for his life and paid severe consequences for doing so: losing his blessing of supernatural strength, capture and blinding by the enemy, public humiliation, and untimely death. [Judges 16]   The next candidate in this category is Jonah and his disobedience, then punishment, of epic proportions. God sent him to warn a city of impending doom, but he wasn't havin' that and took off in the opposite direction... dude became dinner for a whale, then got puked up on a beach.  #NOTwinning [Jonah 1-2]  Luckily for him, his disciplinary action didn't result in death and he had enough sense to do what God sent him to do in the first place. [Jonah 3]

Proactive discipline is a bit more profound because we don't always understand the lesson we are supposed to learn during the process of said discipline.  Take King David, for example... he wasn't even legit as king until well into later in his life, even though he was anointed for the position as a youth.  Could you imagine what that felt like??  Basically, you're told that God chose you to run His nation--but not yet.  Just sit tight for a couple decades. Right.  So proactive discipline for David came in the form of patience and preparation. 

To pass the time until he could ascend the throne, young David was out in the pastures protecting his father's sheep from lions and bears. Little did he know that doing the 'dirty work' behind the scenes would catapult him to the forefront by killing a giant that punked trained warriors. [1 Samuel 17:34-37]  But it didn't end there because David then joined the army of the king; musta been really awkward working for the man you know you're going to replace, but he.o.e.n.o. (Yeah, I said it.)  It probably didn't dawn on him at the time, but enlisting to serve and then rising through the ranks to lead said army was essentially basic training in leadership.  Kinda useful if you're gonna run a whole country, no?  So by the time it was David's turn to wear the crown, he'd already been through "King 101" because God had orchestrated the events of his life to provide the discipline needed to be Israel's most noteworthy leader.  Checking for his general's wife, knocking her up, then having him whacked wasn't in God's syllabus, tho... that was definitely some extracurricular activity on David's part. Yeah...

The moral of the story is that discipline doesn't necessarily equal punishment, but God--like any other loving parent--won't hesitate to use punitive action to teach a serious lesson.  On the other hand, He wants His children to be prepared for the responsibilities that come with the blessings that He has for us.  So think of a teen itching to drive dad's car... Dad would be irresponsible, foolish or both to give junior the keys before making  sure that he's passed driving school and/or gotten his learner's permit.  But when Dad does hand over the keys, it's to a son who was trained on how to enjoy the blessing of a whip responsibly (we can hope).

So when we endure seemingly unfair punishment and wonder what we did wrong, keep in mind that God might just be inflicting a good dose of discipline for our benefit in the long run.  Yeah, just gotta love our Heavenly Father!

be blessed,

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