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.