Today’s bible study today is Hebrews 12:11: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
We have all been disciplined. Undoubtedly the first time we were aware of this was when we were small children and did something that we were told not to do. Usually discipline came in the form of a slight punishment: being sent to our room, having the television turned off, going without dessert or getting ‘time out’ in the big blue chair. And we didn’t like it.
Why, from our earliest memories, have we disliked discipline? Too often we consider the words discipline and punishment to be synonymous. They are not. Punishment is punitive. It implies consequences, usually somewhat unpleasant ones, for unacceptable behavior. Discipline, on the other hand, comes from the same root as disciple, a follower of Jesus. The disciples learned discipline through both the laws of the land and the teachings of Jesus. They neither disliked nor feared it. It was not punishment, but instead a means of teaching them the ways of the Lord.
Early on, we learn to be self-disciplined, putting constraints upon ourselves and conforming to acceptable, if not commendable behavior, without being reminded or punished. And, most of us do learn to do this. If we read and study the bible, if we are aware of the laws of the land and the mores of the culture within which we live, we are well on our way toward becoming disciplined. We know right from wrong, good from evil, justice from injustice, tolerance from intolerance, generosity from selfishness.
We are endowed, somehow, with what we call a conscience. A Garfield cartoon by Jim Davis once pictured Garfield asking his conscience what it looked like. His conscience replied, “I look like everybody’s mother.” How true this is! The first influence on our learning of discipline (or discipleship) is usually our mother. And, throughout out life, she often tries to keep us in line, walking the straight and narrow, staying out of trouble, and making her proud.
Now, let’s substitute the word Mother for that of God. Does God not help us to learn to be disciples by teaching us how to stay in line, walk the path that our Lord and Savior walked, behave in ways that will bring peace and forgiveness rather than anger and malice, and giving us the gift of generosity and hospitality? Does God not live within our hearts and minds as a still, small voice that whispers to us, reminding us what behavior would be most appropriate for His disciples?
When we are angry, does God not whisper peace? When we are selfish, is there not a soft voice within us that reminds us of others who have far less? When we feel we have been persecuted in some way, are we not nudged to recall Jesus’ reaction of turning the other cheek and never answering hatred with hatred?
Yes, discipline may hurt. But it is one way we can become more and more the people God intended us to become. May we always listen to that still, small voice that calls us to true discipleship and the disciplines that Jesus practiced and taught.
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentaryby John MacArthur, Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor
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