by Michael J. Klassen
Kelley and I were talking to a counselor who was sharing some of his horror stories about raising his son. By the time his son man graduated from high school, this father was on a first-name basis with the police officers in his area. Out of his experience, the counselor shared with us this tidbit of wisdom.
Recently, his words replayed through my mind after a frustrating experience with one of my daughters. Despite our warnings, she still defiantly disobeyed us, knowing that consequences would follow. To be honest, I wanted to throw the book at her. Kelley says as a child, she was grounded for life quite a few times. I was trying to figure out how to ground my daughter for life and follow through with it!
Then the thought occurred to me, How does God respond when we disobey him?
Does he immediately ground us?
Does he strike us with lightening?
Does he take away our car keys for a week?
When I lose my temper, gossip about someone, lust, or think only of myself, how does God respond?
If my heart is soft, I might feel the Holy Spirit beckoning me to confess my sin and be reconciled. But quite often—like my unnamed daughter—I don’t want to be told what to do. So what does God do then?
He lets me disobey. Think about it: God watches our every move. He knows every errant thought. He sees what we’re doing when no one else is around. He even detects our deepest selfish motivations. And he doesn’t stop us! It’s a wonder that humanity still exists because we all defy him. Regularly.
Proverbs 3:12 tells us, “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” The writer of Hebrews quotes this proverb and further explains “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all”(Hebrews 12:8).
So how does God discipline us?
If God didn’t love us, he’d either rescue us so he wouldn’t have to mess with us or he’d hurl a bolt of lightening whenever we sin.
Instead, he allows us to suffer the consequences of our choices. Then, when we’re at the end of ourselves, when our hearts are soft enough to listen, he whispers deep inside us, Why do you run from me? Why do you think you know better than me? Don’t you know that I love you and I only want what’s best for you?
Last week at church, my co-pastor and co-blogger Eugene Scott told our congregation, “God isn’t a controller, he’s a redeemer.” To redeem means to pay off, buy back, or recover.
When we disobey God, he doesn’t try to control our future actions by beating us up—at a minimum that’s called “condemnation”(see what Romans 8:1 says about it). First, he pays for our sin—actually he already paid for our sin—by sending Jesus to bear the punishment for our sin through his death on the cross. But then he helps us pick up the pieces and put them back together, if we let him do it. He redeems us by restoring us and making us better.
Believe me, I’m still an advocate for disciplining my teenage children, but my perspective about her changes a great deal when I realize how much we share in common.
Thank God for a loving, merciful God!
Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. In his spare time he works as a freelance writer.