Do you own a dog? If so, it is possible that you have already learned today’s lesson the hard way. Yet it is amazing how many people fail, or simply refuse, to grasp this essential truth.
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”(Hebrews 12:11)
Three months ago we unexpectedly found ourselves owners of a beautiful German Shepherd pup. Our girls had been begging for a pet, and we ourselves had secretly wanted to replace our beloved German Shepherd who had been put down, so understandably we coddled the new “baby.” The girls literally carried him upside down like an infant, and as he grew we put up with much more than we should have. Keeping him off the couches turned into a mischievous game of “you can’t make me” as we would pull him off only to have him promptly jump back up. His playful nips began to draw blood and be genuinely painful, his jumping on us scratched up our legs and threatened to knock us over, and we found ourselves trying to keep from getting hurt.
Now, I am not a violent person; I much prefer using words or other methods to accomplish my goals. We had already tried squirting water on him and painless whacks with a newspaper. Now we tried chaining him up inside when he became disobedient, and when that didn’t work (or we couldn’t hear each other above his aggressively protesting barks), we tried chaining him up outside. Apart from alienating our neighbors, none of this served any constructive purpose. Our nickname for him changed from Stitch to the Kraken, and our whole family began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. At one point, I actually found myself verbally asking him, “Why do you hurt us? Don’t you love us?!” Finally, I broke down and grabbed the fly-swatter, giving him a good whack on his hindquarters. Immediately and inexplicably, Mr. Hyde morphed into another dog–an incredibly good and well-behaved one!
What amazed me from this entire experience was that God used a rambunctious, overgrown pup to teach me a truth about human nature He had already revealed in His Word. Yet, how many of us believe it?
Now please don’t misunderstand me. God neither desires nor commands that we be abusive, but discipline–the understanding that bad behavior has painful consequences–is not the same thing as abuse. The reason the fly-swatter worked for disciplining our dog was because it was hard enough to actually sting (not merely symbolic like the newspaper, which he thought was a game), but not hard enough to injure. Being swatted with it motivated him to control himself so as not to have to experience it again. Done right, discipline needs to be repeated very rarely–only to confirm that the same disobedience will indeed still merit the same consequences. If you are always threatening or doing it frequently, something’s wrong.
It is sad that our nature (not to mention that of our canine friends) requires cognizance of painful consequences to behave, yet we are what we are. Perhaps this is why God in His wisdom did not merely command us to turn away from our sins to Christ, but also provided ample information about the eternal judgment awaiting those who do not.
Help us understand Biblical discipline that we not be abusive, but effective. In Jesus’ name, amen.