6 November 2015Hebrews 12:4-24
“Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children.” (vv. 7-8)
Psalm: Psalm 119:113-128
These words sound harsh and uncompromising, but the people to whom they were written would know all about the absolute power that a Roman father had over his family from birth to death. Roman children never came of age as long as their father survived and Roman family discipline was so complete that children could be rejected at birth, or even sold into slavery. With this knowledge, the people who read these words must have been shocked and concerned about what the writer meant by them, until they saw the following quotation from Proverbs 3:12, 'the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child who he accepts".
The emphasis has shifted to the knowledge that, as children of God, these Christians would be disciplined by God for their own good. Difficulties, hardship and suffering are all part of life. Enduring them and learning to cope can strengthen faith and dependence on God, and teaches lessons that can be used in God's work and service to others.
There are some parents today who would be horrified at the idea of using discipline on their children, usually because they have the mistaken idea of discipline being identified with smacking, or beating. Yet those children who are taught no discipline at all often become self-centred and wilful, and many of them can have difficulty in coping with relationships and dealing with moral issues.
So a parent who loves a child sets out sensible boundaries, so that the child can learn to grow and live to love and care for others. The child who loves their parent obeys the rules - most of the time - and learns through experience that those rules were set out for the benefit of the child and the whole community.
Then, if people obey God's code of conduct, that guidance helps all to live in peace and harmony and to produce a fair and just society. Learning the discipline of Christian behaviour is all a part of growing as a child of God.
- What is your attitude towards disciplining children? What does it say to you about your relationship with God?
- What is the discipline you have rebelled against most and why?
- If you feel able, reflect on one of the more painful experiences of your life, and what it has taught you about yourself and God.