Discipline is a parent’s necessary expression of love. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that “the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens every one He accepts as a son.” God has called parents to raise their children, and part of that process is training them to listen, cooperate, and obey. Obviously, this is not an easy process; however, the benefits of loving discipline are many:
1) it helps keep our children safe, both spiritually and physically;
2) it helps our children to be a blessing to those around them;
3) it helps to free our children from themselves, i.e., from their own selfishness and sin nature.
A few verses later in Hebrews 12, we read about the temporary “pain” of discipline, but also of the resulting long-term gain: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
I’m not exactly sure what “peaceful fruit of righteousness” means, but if it has anything to do with more peace in my home and in my child’s life—and a greater desire in my child to do what is right—then sign me up!
When I read the first part of verse 11, which infers that the immediate reaction to discipline may be “sorrowful”, I realize the following:
1) loving discipline is not for cowards! As parents, we need to step out in faith and “dare to discipline” (the title of a Christian parenting classic from the 1980’s);
2) consistent and firm discipline—delivered in a loving manner—will not, in the short run, make a parent “popular” with a child, because it doesn’t feel good to be corrected or punished;
3) it is difficult for a parent to administer discipline, and there is a lot of truth to the old saying, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.”
In approaching our responsibility to disciple (to teach, to train) our children, we need to trust in the truth of God’s word, which indicates that there is good awaiting “those who have been trained” by discipline. Can I hit the pause button for a moment? That word “trained” is a great concept. It is not implying a knee-jerk reaction or emotional approach to teaching a child; in fact, Webster’s defines the word “train” like this: to teach a person a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time. I like that! It reminds me that discipline is a marathon and not a sprint. It is intentional and not reactionary. Consistent, daily parental interaction is how we best train children.
It’s no surprise that discipline is “sorrowful” for the moment because, let’s face it, there’s nothing more frustrating than not getting our own way. We are no different from children in this regard! It is also sorrowful to a child who realizes his error and feels saddened or ashamed. Regardless of the reason for the sorrow, that “pain” will create a more fertile soil in which a cooperative and yielded attitude may grow if a parent administers discipline in the context of a loving relationship. As we love our children enough to patiently and consistently discipline them, the character quality of self-discipline will emerge in our children’s ways, by God’s grace.
The conclusion of Hebrews 12:11 assures us that “afterwards [discipline] yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Results often come later, and sometimes they come much later. Isn’t that how training works? When we begin to physically train (exercise, lift weights, run), the results come down the road… afterwards! If we could see the immediate results from our physical training, I’m sure more of us would be in great shape. Instead, we must consistently invest our time and our energy, knowing that the fruit of our labor will show up later. Things indeed take time, and the key and the challenge with any kind of training is to stick with it. Day in and day out, loving and consistent discipline in a child’s life bears fruit. Galatians 6:9 is a terrific reminder to trust and to hang in there in all matters to which we are called, including the challenges of raising children: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” His grace is sufficient for your calling as a parent!