Consequences vs Punishment vs Discipline

(Image not mine)

Recently I had a heavy conversation with Dahn about consequences, punishment and discipline. Does God find ways to punish you…purposely withhold good things from you…because you displeased Him? Or is it just consequences…either of our wrong doing or someone elses. How about discipline from God? What leads to which in view of our spiritual walk with God? Keeping in mind too, that our spiritual lives cannot be separated from our physical lives…nor can our lives be separated from the lives around us.

I think we’re wrong to rank sins. “Well, doing this is better than doing that.” Choosing the better of two evils…is still evil. We should weep over someone who hates, as much as someone who lives in addiction or is abusive, as much as someone who lies. Sin = sin which deserves death. Not because God is mean, but because He is just. Real-life consequences of the various sins might differ in impact to our lives but consequences is NOT punishment. Consequences are natural results of laws being upheld or broken; whether laws of nature or laws of spirit. Spiritual laws are harder to discern and sort through…but I think of Deut 30:15-18:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

That’s spiritual law. Walk in obedience to God=life. Disobedience=destruction. Destruction isn’t the punishment…it’s the result of breaking spiritual law. Like burning your hand on the stove isn’t punishment…it’s the natural result of putting your hand on the stove. Spiritual consequences can carry into the 3rd or 4th generation. Look at effects of acoholism or teen pregnancies in familes. But that curse/chain of consequences can be broken as that person claims new life in Christ and starts to live in obedience. The consequence of that is God blessing them to a thousand generations. Obedience vs disobedience determines what consequences result.

Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that God is out to punish me, in addition to the consequences. But I keep reminding myself to humbly bear our consequences in the now, which isn’t punishment. I believe God knows our heart and is merciful too….so sometimes the consequence could be lifted as a result of that mercy. Or He blesses us so much more than we deserve as we’re living in true repentence and that’s His grace. God is slow to anger and doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. To believe God is out to get me is a false belief of God…perpetuated by the Enemy.

I think God’s discpline…could feel like punishment…but isn’t. Discipline brings about maturity and growth and good transformation whereas I think punishment is just to make you suffer. Make you pay. Was Joseph’s time in prison punishment? No. But it is part of God’s discipline and training for Joseph to be a good govenor of Egypt. God’s kindness was with Joseph IN prison…we’re apt to think God’s kindness would’ve kept Joseph FROM prison. This tells me to examine how I view trials/suffering as well as how I view God. And maybe if I’ve gotten nothing out of a difficult situation, then *I’m* the problem, punishing myself.

I’m reminded again of the saying, “God is more concerned about your character than your comfort.” So now when I find myself in some kind of uncomfortable/painful situation I go through these thoughts:

  1. Is this consequences for a sin of mine? If yes, confess, repent, bear the consequence with humility and start to live rightly.
    If not…perhaps it is part of the consequences of someone else’s sin which unfortunately, is never in isolation to that person. It’s an opportunity to practice grace and forgiveness. Or it could be a form of discipline and training. Or even a strange answer to prayer….
  2. Could this suffering be used for character development somehow? Absolutely! It grows patience, perserverence, hope, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, love, peace, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, etc etc. Take this time to learn well and be transformed!
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3 responses

  1. Hey Reigh,

    I totally with your line of thought and want to expand on some points you’ve already made.

    I totally agree that there are natural consequences that result from sin. God is love and for God to always intervene in those cases and “save us from ourselves” would just not be love– it would be enabling our pattern of sinful/harmful behavior. It’s like that passage in Romans 1 that describes a people that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” As a result of their sinful ways “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” This was the consequence (not the punishment) of their sin— that God would leave them to their own devices to do as they please and wallow in the bed they’ve made for themselves.

    Freedom and human is choice is what makes life and anything we do meaningful. Imagine if you had to program your husband to say “I love you” and chain him to your ankle to get him to stay put. What meaning is love coming from a robot (even one made of flesh) when he has no choice but to say/do only what you command? Love without freedom is not love at all. Likewise, God does not force us to choose Him. He give us freedom and choice, yet most of our complaints and requests to Him relate to why He isn’t controlling/intervening enough (and taking away ours or others’ freedom) when we don’t like the results. We get upset when we think our freedom is being taken away or restricted, but then we also get upset when we’re given choice, and are subsequently subject to the consequences of our own choices.

    There are also physical realities and limitations that we as human beings have to contend with while living on earth eg. you put your hand on a stove you will burn it, you jump off a cliff the laws of gravity say you will die. So we have to live within the hard boundaries of reality and seemingly strict restrictions from God because He put them in place to preserve our life. As my pastor once said, He does this otherwise life ceases to be life.

    Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Is there always a purpose for suffering? It’s hard for me to accept the idea that I’m suffering for the good of someone else because the Lord cares about that someone else (or the greater good) over me. I’m not saying that God wouldn’t allow suffering for the greater good or for the sake of His own glory (as suffering as a way of turning people back to worship). But when I think about His character and how Jesus would often stop everything he was doing and even break religious rules for the sake of showing grace to an individual who needed it, it leads me to believe there is so much more to the “why” that we cannot understand. Some of the answers will emerge when we finally resurface from suffering–refined and beautifully transformed, but some of the “whys” I think we will never know until we reach heaven and can ask Jesus personally.

    One thing I can readily see in present suffering and injustice in this world (if nothing else) is proof and testament of just how messed up we are without God. Life and humankind, apart from God and left to our own devices, is dark and broken and the effects of sin are horribly far reaching. But I can take comfort in two things:
    a) Nothing can touch me that God Almighty and All-Knowing doesn’t allow. And,
    b) The Lord listens to the cries of the oppressed (Exo 3:9). Even to the Israelites (God’s favored people) as they were getting ready to enter the promise land He told them to be careful not to become oppressors in the new land. Why? Because God is compassionate and just. He harkens to the cries of the oppressed and would actually SWITCH SIDES to fend for the defenseless (Exo 22). Isn’t that something?

    That is why I know I can safely surrender everything to Him. It is because He is love.

  2. Pingback: What rules: Your Desires or God’s word? | Life of HeArt

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