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Discipline vs. Punishment

(This post was written by Michael Wallace, High School Pastor)

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands… know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” -Deuteronomy 8:2, 5

For a long time, I thought the word “discipline” was a bad thing.  I saw discipline as a synonym of “punishment,” but I had an immature understanding of God’s discipline.  Punishment is our payment for stepping out of line, but discipline is God’s way of correcting our mistakes in love.  As the verses above state, God protected the Israelites while He led them in the desert.  He didn’t punish them externally, but He intentionally walked them through the process of understanding what they did wrong in an attempt to correct the internal issue.

I have tried to model this with my son, Colt.  When I was growing up, my dad would always say the same thing when he disciplined me: “Because I love you, I have to make you obey.”  Now that I have a child of my own I completely get it! I even added a second line to the phrase: “Colt, because you love me, you must choose to obey.”  When we view discipline as correction with love and not punishment without purpose, we see our kids the way God sees us.

How does this happen?  Remember, punishment is a reaction and discipline is a response.  We have to be intentional when correcting our kids not to snap into punishment mode but to come alongside them and identify the internal problem while delivering the external consequences.