As a parent and pastor, I love seeing when someone I teach lights up with understanding. This past Saturday, I taught my Parenting with Confidence seminar and that “light bulb moment” happened when we talked about discipline.
Specifically, we talked about the reason we discipline. As a parent it can be difficult to impose pain on one we love. But our chastisement is rooted in the nature of God. We learn to deal with our children by looking at how the perfect Father loves his.
In The Disciple-Making Parent, I talk about why we discipline from a discipleship point of view. In this post, I want to look at a more specific Scriptural basis for discipline.
The Father Disciplines Us
Ultimately, we discipline because the Father disciplines us. We understand how to relate to our child by looking at our Heavenly Father. God created the earthly relationship to understand the heavenly one, not the other way around. So our discipline of our children is rooted in the perfect character of God.
Let’s look at Hebrews 12:6-11 for some clues on heavenly and earthly discipline.
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
As a young father seeking God’s wisdom, this passage was extremely helpful to me. What are some principles that fall from this passage?
Some Guiding Principles
1. Discipline is from God. the discipline of the Lord – The Lord disciplines us. We are like him when we discipline. It is an outworking of his love toward us. This is an action of God toward his people.
2. Discipline is an act of love. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves. – He is love and yet he disciplines us because he loves. Proverbs tells us that to not discipline is to hate. The motive is love. Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.” So if a parent says, “I love him too much to discipline him,” Scripture would tell us you are hating him and loving yourself.
3. Discipline starts with fathers. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. –Fathers should take the lead in disciplining. This agrees with Ephesians 6:4 where fathers are commanded to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
4. Discipline results in respect toward parents. and we respected them. – Proper discipline results in respect not alienation. There is a reason God gives us little children. When they disobey our commands, they know there should be a consequence. When there is no consequence, they start to lose respect for us. It is similar to the classroom teacher that cannot control his or her class. There is no respect for the teacher. Too many parents want their children to like them. Our children will like us when they are adults if they respect us when they are children.
5. Our discipline is for a short time. For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them. – Believe it or not, you will not always be correcting your children. In the broad span of their life, our discipline is really only for a very short time.
6. Our discipline is Imperfect. For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them. – What a sweet relief this verse is! As it seemed best to them. That means that my discipline will be imperfect and they will survive! This is not to endorse uninformed thinking. Parenting with Confidence does help here. Nevertheless, I only have to do my best. We should not hold back out of fear of “messing up” our child. They come messed up already!- I know I did not discipline perfectly. They will survive. Loving, thoughtful discipline will not always be executed perfectly. But in a house where there is love and affection our children will “survive” our mistakes.
7. Discipline is painful. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, – Now we come to our foundational verse. Discipline is painful. The pain of the discipline we impose should be more than the pleasure of disobedience. It is hard to inflict negative consequences on our children but it is necessary. God, our loving heavenly Father, has a plan for your life this year that includes pain. One reason he brings that pain is for your growth.
8. Discipline results in righteousness/peace. but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Though it may not seem like it, discipline actually brings the fruit of peace and practical righteousness (or uprightness). Where there is not self-control, there is a lack of peace. The home is filled with conflict and lack of order. Where there is self-control there is peace in the home, peace in the heart, and a godliness.
9. Discipline has a purpose of training. but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Training is not words. Training is action with teeth, with consequences. The final step in righteousness is training (2 Timothy 3:16). We hope our children have habits of godliness.
10. Discipline is heart oriented My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord… for those who have been trained by it. – This observation might surprise you but the writer aims his comments at the heart of the one being disciplined. One can accept discipline and be trained by it or one can refuse to learn from it. Proverbs calls that refusal to learn the actions of a fool. Similarly, as parents we want to aim not just at behavior but at the heart. We don’t want just obedience when we are looking for fear of punishment. Rather we are hoping for and pleading for a heartfelt orientation toward wisdom and obedience.
When we think about disciplining our children, our primary text is not Proverbs but the New Testament. When combining Ephesians 6:4 and Hebrews 12:6 and following, we see that our parenting flows out of the character of God. We parent like he does. The world now sees discipline has abusive. Scripture and experience would argue that loving, careful, and proper discipline brings the “fruitful peace of righteousness.”