It was such a small thing . . . I am not even sure why it so strongly got my attention . . . it just DID. I was watching the television “reality” program, Nineteen Kids and Counting– documenting the daily activities of a Christian family of nineteen children. In the clip the youngest Duggar, four-year-old Josie, had refused to share a ball with her siblings. When her mother (Michelle Duggar) realized what was happening, she stooped down to look Josie in the eye as she gently but firmly said, “Josie . . .the world does not revolve around Josie!” Appearing slightly embarrassed, little Josie handed the ball over to her mother as the timer was set to mark when it would be her turn to play with the ball again. I was awestruck by the beauty and blessing of Christian discipline played out so sweetly!
I wonder if that little exchange between parent and child has stayed with me because it was such a sharp contrast to what I see around me–children who are out-of-control, who disrespect their parents and all other authority. Sadly, we live in an increasingly godless culture where children are taught that the world DOES revolve around them. Many parents, having abdicated their responsibility of teaching “right from wrong,” prefer instead to be “friends” with their kids. The outcome? With Christ out of the picture and no responsible adult in charge: such things as discipline, respect for authority, love for God and love for neighbor have become foreign concepts. The fruit of raising such overindulged, undisciplined children? All too often they become joyless, angry and unproductive adults.
I thought about this two days ago when the latest school shooting was being reported on the news. We continue to be stunned by such events as they take place in just about any setting across the US. Looking for reasons as to why they happen “experts” point to such things as abuse in childhood, parental divorce, mental illness, the influence of violent movies and video games, ease of access to guns as reasons for our cultural toxicity. Although such factors may indeed have some merit, I wonder if the problem goes far deeper . . . if perhaps it is a reflection of the spiritual darkness that has become so pervasive in the minds and hearts of people? Thinking back to little Josie and her mom, it would seem that in separating ourselves from God and rejecting Christ, the wisdom needed to raise secure, healthy children through loving discipline has been lost.
The Bible likens discipline to preparing to run a race. Several months ago our grandson Jack agreed to start running with his mom–our oldest daughter Kara. For months they trained. Knowing not to push too hard, Kara sought to help Jack build his endurance. There were discouraging times, but they kept to a disciplined plan and finally were ready to enter Jack’s first 5-K run. The morning of the run, a large crowd showed up to compete. Kara and Jack ran the course and it ended up with Jack taking second place in his category of runners. He was one proud, happy guy and his mama was quite pleased also!
As I think about the blessing of loving discipline being worked out in Josie’s and Jack’s lives–two very different examples–I have come to value Christian discipline as truly unique. Remembering that the root word in discipline is disciple, we can learn much about meaningful discipline by studying Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith as He disciplined His disciples–preparing them for what was ahead.
- Although Jesus got frustrated with His disciples spiritual denseness, it was love that motivated how He taught and challenged their minds and hearts.
- Jesus knew His time to prepare them for what was coming was limited–there was no time to waste.
- Jesus’ focus was never solely on changing the outward behavior of His disciples; His words penetrated their minds and hearts to bless them with an eternal perspective.
Having walked with Christ for over half of my life, I have come to appreciate the connection between love and discipline as the two essential parts of Christian discipline. When we talk about this in the Counseling Room I demonstrate the unique strength of Christian discipline by bringing my fingers together (representing love on one hand and discipline on the other) to form a uniform mesh of strength. It is the resulting strength of combining love with discipline that builds solid character in the heart of the receiver.
No matter where you are in life–young or old, married or single, rich or struggling financially–if you are a Christian then it is important to appreciate and apply the beauty and blessings of Christian discipline in your relationships. True Christian discipline seeks to honor Christ as it is:
- Motivated by love, Christian discipline seeks to challenge (and in the long-run strengthen) the mind and heart of the receiver.
- It does not waste time but uses it wisely and prayerfully because it is precious.
- Its focus is never just about changing behavior, true Christian discipline seeks to penetrate the mind and heart of the receiver for eternity with the love of Jesus.
nor be weary when reproved by Him.
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and chastises every son whom He receives . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” Hebrews 12:5, 6 & 10
All to His Glory!