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Can You Hear Me Now?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Does God Punish?

I was surfing the blog-o-sphere the other day and ran across this question at the ‘Emerging Women’ blog which I have recently started reading. While I don’t agree with everything written, there are some interesting and thought-provoking conversations going on over there.

The author (Tiffani) of this post asks:

'While there are certainly instances in the Bible where it appears that God has punished His people, does He in fact punish or does He simply allow us to suffer the consequences of our sin? Could the answer be in the definition of the term? Is there a difference between punishment and discipline? I have, for the first time, begun exploring these thoughts and am curious to hear other opinions.'

I immediately thought about how ANGRY God seems in the O.T. Every message to the prophets was one of ultimate destruction to those disobedient Israelites. The Bible even mentions God’s anger when he spared Noah during the great flood.

I also thought about what draws me to reach for and know God more. For me, it’s simply due to His great LOVE. I don’t cower in fear to the God of punishment. Rather I seek, read, and pray to the God of love. A love born out of creation. A love so deep it crosses time and space. A love that led Him to offer the ultimate sacrifice of His son, in order to free ME from the bondage of sin and ultimate death and separation from Him for eternity.

I thought about children and the discipline parents must provide. This discipline (punishment) is typically done so out of love, and the desire to train the child to mature and grow into the person God created them to be.

Ultimately I do believe that God does punish His children, but not out of wrath, or desire to destroy, rather out of desire to train us and mold us. I believe our Heavenly Father provides punishment as a form of parental training.

We live in a fallen world. We are no longer created in the image of God, rather in the image of Adam and Eve. We sin because sin is what we’re born into. The sin we are born into is in constant struggle with the love with which we are created.

I imagine a world, born into sin, full of free-will…without ‘punishment’…and shudder to think of the chaos and ‘hell on earth’ state in which we’d exist.

I believe unmerited punishment to the point of suffering is actually torture. The goal of Godly punishment is NOT to torture needlessly, rather the goal of Godly punishment is redirection and growth out of love from our Father…our creator.

Perhaps discipline is a better term for what the ‘author’ is expressing. The word ‘punish’ (to me) implies a negative connotation, where as the word discipline (to me) implies character molding and growth.



tam said...

Sometimes I am amazed that you like me the way you do because you can write at a level that leaves me somewhat speechless.

Your thoughts get going to places that I too go but cannot articulate in a manner that gets people thinking and talking. Like you do.

Some of the people you are reading these days are out of my league...I just cannot keep up intellectually (I think I just spelled that wrong...!)

Thank you for, once again, putting forth meat to consume...and ponder.

Joy M. said...

kp, what are your thoughts on things like tsunamis and hurricanes being God's judgment?

Not to spur a debate, just curious. If you want to answer in private, I'll understand. It can be a real hot button.

This does put things into perspective. I have been known in the past (hopefully it will stay there) to react badly to discipline only to find out later that it really was out of God's love that it was meted out. There was a house that we wanted once and were turned down for. I had a fit and a few years later learned the house had been torn down. Maybe not discipline, but certainly God was protecting us by NOT giving us what we were asking for. Boy what a baby I was!

Spookie the Warrior said...

the word Discipline always reminds me of the word Disciple and when God disciplines us He is discipling us. I bet these words are connected in some way. Without His gentle discipline we would have no direction in our lives. And we would not be able teach others either. These two words fit so perfectly together that they cannot go one without the other.

Grafted Branch said...

Discipline, rather than punishment...A perfect ending to your post. Just what I was going to add, but now I won't! :)

HeyJules said...

I've been reading through the OT of late and it does seem like an entirely different God than the one that sent His only Son to die for us, doesn't it? They sinned, He punished, they sinned some more, He punished some more...It seems rather silly when you think about it. I keep coming away wondering "if these people are so good at turning from God, why the heck did He choose them as His people?" Who knows...

I do think we reap what we sew and that, as sinners, we bear the consequences of those sins. If you cheat on your spouse, you're going to do it knowing you could lose them. It is the price for the sin and we all know it. So why then look to God and say He's punishing me for the sin I committed when it could just be that we're paying the consequences that fit the action?

However, I do believe that God also disciples us with discipline and here's how I see the difference: If I learn and grow from the process, I attribute it to God's growing me. If, however, the punishment of what I did leaves me miserable and begging for mercy, I attribute that to paying for the sin I committed.

Make any sense?

Heather Smith said...

I'm thankful that we are under grace and not the law. According to the OT I probably would've been stoned to death before I got out of my teens because I was a bit of a mouthy teen. I think you are right on this. God does discipline us to make us grow. I believe that many times we PUNISH ourselves by walking away from God's perfect will for us.

kpjara said...

Tam: Some of the most intelligent conversation I've had has been with you. More than that, you keep me from letting my head drift off into the clouds. You help me stay encouraged about being a 'mother' one day. And you remind me to pray every day.

Joy: A part of me thinks that the tsunami's and hurricanes (like the flood) are judgement, and that's when it is hardest for me to understand this God...who loves me SO much.

It's not as though there is a weather god. We know and believe there is only 1 God, so I know the storms are planned and ordained...the why? I don't know.

Spookie: I thought the exact same thing. Disciple has got to be the root of discipline. We're going to have to look it up and find out the greek root.

GB: Thanks, once again for the comments and encouragement.

Jules: I do understand and thank you for the wording. I TOTALLY agree about the sow and reap principle and have seen it ring true in my own life time and time again...both good and bad.

I also think about the process of refining and how that is not a painless process. It is with applied heat and pressure that the refining happens.

Great comments!

kpjara said...

Heather: We must have been typing at the same time...I agree with what you say (as the NT says)we are no longer under the law of the OT, and I too would have been stoned before I was 15. We do punish ourselves by choosing our will over God's PERFECT frustrating is that.

Morning Glory said...

Food definitely for thought. I don't have anything to comment, but I'm here reading and pondering.

Dawn said...

Interesting that you brought up this subject today. It was the subject of our Sunday School lesson two days ago. We're in Proverbs. Proverbs 1:2 says, "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wiscom and discipline, for understanding words of insight; . . ." The writer of the lesson says, "It is no mistake that the terms wisdom and discipline are paired. discipline, as it is used here, refers to oral instruction. We often think of discipline only in terms of correction, but discipline as used in Proverbs refers to a broader understanding. A parent who provides verbal instruction to a child for expected behavior is practicing bibilical discipline. Knowledge is the mortar for building wisdom. Gaining understanding is the cognitive course goal."

A different slant.

Sally said...

Discipline is a word we so often react badly to and yet it stems from real love... if we were left to go our own way with no correction we would complain that God was not interested in us... thought provoking post Kim, thanks.

Cool Mama said...

Hey...the only thing that comes to me, is this: I wonder if the reason why we struggle so much with the idea of a loving God, 'disciplining', is because when we are disciplined in this world, there is often anger attached to it. The discipline of God is always done IN love, and motivated BY love, and WITH Love. God isn't selfish so He doesn't discipline because he's miffed at us inconveniencing Him, or ticking Him off . He disciplines because He wants the best for us. Hard for us humans, who sometimes discipline out of anger,frustration or irritation, to understand that. God's discipline isn't to make His life's to make ours better....Just a thought...

tam said...

you know...I've been thinking about the "Angry God of the OT"

The OT does read, initially, somewhat harshly. Punishment driven even, if you will.

What I have found this last year, however, is that the OT is FULL of love, promises, restoration and forgiveness. It is harder to see because we did not have Christ or the Holy Spirit dwelling within us at that point yet to decipher for us. (the authors didn't anyway)

I can elaborate more if you would like but I just thought I'd add this notation of the OT being filled with words of love far more than I ever realized before.

kpjara said...

Dawn: I love the quote from the lesson, particularly that last line or two. Good stuff!

Sally: I totally agree!

Cool Mama: I think you've hit a point. When I think of earthly discipline I do think of anger attached to it, both to and from me. Good point.

Tam: I guess I'm aware of the promises of the OT, but outside of some love poetry...I wasn't feeling the love of the OT. So elaboration and lesson would be mucho appreciated.

sarah said...

God punishes the wicked and disciplines those who love Him. The difference is more than just semantics - it's the awesome reality in which we live. Those who are washed with the blood of Christ do not bear the punishment of their own sin, because our punishment has been laid upon Christ. But those to turn from God to walk according to their own ways have been, are being, and will be punished (temporally and eternally).

Repentance - truly turning from our sin unto the Lord and rending our hearts - is the only way unto salvation. That Christ took our punishment upon Himself is inherent in the promise of the Cross. If we do not lay hold of the grace given to us, and we continue to walk in sin after surrendering our lives to God, then we will reap both the consequences of our sin and the discipline of the Lord. (And sometimes His discipline is nothing other than the consequences of the sin itself.)

His discipline comes not out of frustration that we "screwed up" what he's done for us, but out of His great desire to see us walk in the joy that only comes from being free from sin. Sin is a snare that entangles us, a slavemaster that has no mercy. If we willfully allow sin to have a place in our lives, we will reap destruction simply because sin kills. If we sin and God does nothing, then we live a tormented and hopeless life, and die a hopeless, tormented death. But because God desires for us to walk free from the ravages of sin, He will show His great mercy by appealing to us to turn away from sin and turn to Him. By disciplining us, He is revealing His goodness and mercy – Not only because he loves us too much to leave us enslaved to sin, but also because the simple contrast between God’s ways and the ways of darkness (unrighteous men and demons) reveals that God alone is Light and Good and Lovely.

The last three or four paragraphs of this post deal with the topic of punishment, though I use different terminology.

Anonymous said...

Well said.