1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment & punishment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
In revisiting the last post on punishment, “Has God Settled Your Case?,” I wanted to be clear that God does discipline His children. However, He never punishes them. There is a difference between discipline and punishment.
Punishment – You’ve done wrong therefore you deserve: pain, retribution, penance, sacrifice, etc. as a penalty. If you do wrong you must pay something back. Something must be “taken away” from you in order to pay for your crimes/sins. The law of sowing and reaping governs. “An eye for an eye”
Discipline – You’ve done wrong, because you’re not clearly seeing who you really are. Let me teach you who you are, and how you’re supposed to respond and how you’re supposed to act. Renewing your mind – there is a wrong thought – let’s “correct” that thought by replacing it with the truth. You reap what someone else has sown (i.e. – their wisdom).
Discipline adds something good to you when addressing an issue or wrong that you’ve committed, while punishment takes something good away from you in hopes that you will learn a valuable lesson and alter your behavior. However, punishment backfires more times than not in teaching the correct lesson, and usually reinforces negative thoughts and behaviors.
This is clearly seen in the difference between the old and new covenants. In the old covenant, people were punished for breaking the law. Yet we read in Romans, that the punishment was insufficient and ineffective to correct the behavior and mindset that breaks the law. This is why a sacrifice was required year after year. Because the law was punitive only. While it hoped for transformation, it was imperfect, and man’s nature remained sinful. Men were doomed to repeat the same mistakes and struggle with the same issues.
Yet Jesus came to give us a new and better covenant. Who did Jesus ever punish for their sins? Whoever came to Jesus and left feeling worse than when they had first come? Two instances come to mind: the rich young ruler and the teachers of the law. No one else ever came to Jesus and left empty-handed. He gave to ALL. He healed ALL.
Find a time when Jesus said: “Well, you’re actually sick because God is punishing you for your sin. I’m sorry. I can’t help you, because that would undermine the lesson God is trying to teach you through this.” Or to the woman caught in adultery: “Where are your accusers? Well, now that it’s just you and me I can give you what you deserve. The law requires punishment – that you pay for your sins to teach you a valuable lesson, so you’ll never commit this heinous sin/crime again. I’m about to cover you with stones, and I want you to know that it’s because I love you that I do this.” Is this not absurd? We could never imagine Jesus saying that to her. Yet how many times do we give this very advice to those who are sick, suffering, or have just lost a loved one?