Recently, a Thai father posted a video clip of himself disciplining his daughter titled “If you love a cow, tie it up, and if you love your child, discipline him/her”. His Facebook posting was shared many times over. This is almost identical to Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him”.
When I was about seven years old, my late father punished me for stealing money from his drawer. Despite being forced to kneel on the floor, I was adamant and refused to admit my wrongdoing. Half way through the caning, he broke into tears. Realising that it must have pained him so much to cane me, his own flesh and blood, I immediately owned up. What he did next took me by complete surprise. Not only did he stop the caning, he helped me up and asked me not to steal again. I realised that all my father wanted was for me to acknowledge my wrongdoing and he would lovingly forgive me.
We can also draw a parallel spiritual lesson from Hebrews 12:6 “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”.
Our earthly fathers discipline us for a short while, usually during our growing up years. Although we try hard to be good fathers to lovingly discipline our children, we often fail. Sometimes the motivation and methodology of discipline may be wrong. The punishment may be meted out of anger, frustration, biasness, or an emotional outburst. The slightest provocation can result in the children getting punished disproportionately for their wrongdoing. For example, it was reported recently that a father left his seven year old son in a dense forest to punish him for throwing stones at people and cars. Fathers are not perfect. But our Heavenly Father is and always deals with us so consistently with love and grace throughout our whole lives. In His infinite love and wisdom, godly discipline can be in the form of trial, persecution or suffering. How we respond to them is our choice. But we will certainly not be tested beyond what we can endure for God is loving and faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So what can discipline from God accomplish for us? We should first willingly choose to submit to God‘s discipline because we have chosen to call Him “Abba Father” and are fellow heirs with Christ. As Hebrews 12:9 tells us, if we submit to the Father of our spirits, we will live. Bishop Westcott (in “The Epistle to the Hebrews”) puts it aptly, “True life comes from complete self-surrender.” This passage in Hebrews 12:7-11 gives us three reasons why we should surrender or submit to God’s loving discipline:
- We should submit to the Father’s discipline because it is an essential aspect of the father-son relationship (v7-8).
- We should submit to the Father’s discipline because He perfectly administers it for our eternal good, that we may share His holiness (v9-10).
- We should submit to the Father’s discipline because although it is difficult for the present, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to all that are trained by it (v11).
Today as we celebrate Father’s Day, let us also honour and give thanks to our fathers for their role in moulding and disciplining us to be who we are today. Disciplining and love are not mutually exclusive; they combine to lead us on the path of life. My dad had caned me well to teach me what is right and wrong. And from my Abba Father, I learned (and am still learning) how to live a victorious life as a joyful exile in His grace.
By Vincent Lim, Deacon (YCKC Bulletin 18&19 June 2016)