The previous post has me thinking about fatherly discipline. I’ve been a father for only about two years now. That, however, is plenty of time to realize that a ‘theology of the rod’ is absolutely necessary. Frankly, I’ve sloppily made things up on the fly so far. My daughter is none the better for it, either. I pray God will use 1 Chronicles 21.13 to set my feet on firmer ground.
In Withhold Not Correction (P&R: 1978), Bruce Ray writes the following penetrating paragraph (p61):
Fathers, do you realize that when you administer discipline it is an act of worship? Do you approach discipline with that in mind? Are you concerned to accurately portray the character of God as you wield that rod? Do you keep in mind your supreme motive, which is to bring your child into a subordinate relationship to the authority of God? Fathers, you are to be a reflection of our Lord Jesus Christ in the home. As Christ is the Head of the Church, so you are to be head in your home.
To that I say a rowdy “Amen!” Our children see the first glimpse of God’s character in their fathers, whether it’s a right reflection or not. Children become theologians before they ever know the meaning of the word ‘theology.’ It’s the imago Dei in all of us.
God has a standard of holiness that demands obedience. Blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. And our children benefit greatly from the safety of discipline. God is holy and so we enforce that attribute. Now, (with much thanks to ‘cousin’ Katie Burchett), my daughter is learning her first hymn, “Holy, holy, hooooooLEE!” (she likes a big finish).
Enter 1 Chronicles 21.13. A proper demonstration of the character of God demands the mercy of discipline as much as the rod of discipline. Don’t get me wrong. I support a firm-handed correction, but will my daughter consider the mercy inherent in it? In other words, when faced squarely with her sin (or sinful act) will she say Davidically, “I’ll fare much better with my dad than to let this sin fester”? Or will she be terrified to confess sin and receive correction from me? Will she remember that the pain of ‘the spoon’ was always soothed quickly by swift forgiveness?
With merciful discipline she will learn something about the nature of sin, too. Sin kills and the enemy in her is a lying thief. But with dad there is great mercy because of his great love for her (Heb 12.4-17). His discipline will be much less painful. In the end, she will understand the gospel of grace, in which God beat our sin out of Jesus and sanctifies us in his merciful love. I can’t wait for her to get to the next line of the hymn: “merciful and mighty.”
Well, I’m not sure where all this is going. In fact, I could be completely wrong about all of this. But, I’m sure you’ll find out well enough when you run into Lidi in twenty years. I hope she’ll tell you something right about God. If she does, make sure she thanks her mother.