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Love and discipline

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. (Hebrews 12:6-10 ESV)

Love and discipline are not two words I can put together very well in my mind.

Love is something warm and accepting; discipline seems cold and restricting. Discipline involves training, setting boundaries, receiving correction, and being chastened. Love implies an unconditional acceptance, freedom, being affirmed, and being encouraged. Love feels good; discipline feels painful. (Hebrews 12:11 agrees.) They seem like polar opposites.

As we are growing up discipline does not feel like love, and in fact a lot of discipline is probably not done in love. When I discipline my children, even when it is for their good, it still feels like I'm being unloving.

Yet how often the Scripture puts these two concepts together: Deuteronomy 4:36, 37; 11:1, 2; 2 Samuel 7:14; Prov 3:11, 12; 12:1; 13:24; Hebrews 12:5-10; Revelation 3:19. Discipline is a vital dimension of God's love:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (--Jesus, in Revelation 3:19)

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Both love and discipline -- from God's perspective -- involves us being treated as children, even though beloved children. Be-love-d children, because we by grace are born of his nature and brought into his family; and disciplined, because we need to grow up to maturity in the image of Christ. To enter into the holiness and glory of God is inevitably a painful, growing up process. But this is the destiny so lovingly planned for us by God.

From my perspective, this means in my love for God I must be willing to accept boundaries, restictions, discomfort, and correction. It means I can't really love God unless I practice self-discipline. Love without discipline is sentimentality. Discipline without love is self-righteousness (or despair). Loving God takes discipline like loving our family involves certain painful things on our part: self-control, sacrifice, limitation, dying to self.

But if we don't do this we should question what kind of love we have for God.


Jeff Burke said…
I'm with you 100%
From your perspective how does a typical American Christian even begin to be disciplined? We are overstimulated, overfed, overentertained, etc. Who determines what form the discipline takes? Who determines the level within the form? Is one left to oneself to figure it all out?

If one wants to be disciplined, how does it happen? Who sets the boundaries, restrictions, etc.?
Jeff Burke said…
Check out this site. It contains an article by George Florovsky: "The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament".
First line: "If the monastic ideal is union with God through prayer, through humility, through obedience, through constant recognition of one’s sins, voluntary or involuntary, through a renunciation of the values of this world, through poverty, through chastity, through love for mankind and love for God, then is such an ideal Christian?"

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