IN PREVIOUS POSTS we established that the Bible commands corporal punishment. We also established that children must be controlled, and that the best way to do this is with loving, compassionate corporal punishment.
Hebrews twelve tells us that “God disciplines the son that he loves” (Heb. 12:6). There are two important ideas in this text. First, because God is a father he disciplines his children. That is one of the things that fathers do. They discipline. But second, God disciplines his children because he loves them. In other words, God’s discipline is an expression of his compassion, tenderness, and affection. God is the model parent. If love motivates God to discipline, then it should motivate Christian parents to do the same.
This means that our discipline should be consistent, patient, and tenderhearted. Children best make the connection between love and discipline in the context of the gospel. No Christian young or old can hear the gospel enough. The gospel is about fallen humans who cannot meet God’s standards. The gospel is about God’s grace stooping down at infinite cost to himself to give us the gift of righteousness which can never be earned. It is about a humble, needy people, living before an infinitely giving God who supplies all of our needs. Wise parents use the discipline process to communicate this love to their child. Here is an example.
You ask your six year old to make his bed. He ignores you. So you take him aside into a private place. You tell him that, because God disciplines the son that he loves that you are going to do the same. You remind him that God’s standard is his righteousness (perfection), and that but for the gospel, for this one sin he might have gone to hell forever. Then you remind him of God’s love. On the cross Jesus took the punishment we deserve. In addition, if he believes the gospel, his faith will unite him to Christ in such a way that Christ’s righteousness will become his.
Then you place him over your knee and administer an age appropriate spanking, not physically hurting the child, yet causing enough pain to communicate that disobedience is always costly. After he quits crying you make sure that he asks your forgiveness and God’s. You close by forgiving him and convincing him that, on the basis of Christ’s atoning work, God also delights to forgive him.
You have accomplished several things. In the child’s mind you have connected discipline with God’s love. You have humbled your child with the seriousness of his or her sin. You have taught the child that sin always brings pain. You have encouraged your child with his heavenly Father’s forgiveness and love. Last, you have dissolved your child’s guilt and self-condemnation.
No parent can do this perfectly or consistently, but parents that try to discipline this way reap a great harvest on the long run.