Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Biblical" Discipline

We have reached that age. You know the one: Where Miss is given a command she is capable of following and for whatever reason doesn’t do it. Where Miss knows what she wants but can’t have it, resulting in an epic melt down. And like many parents in this situation, I’m searching for tools to use to guide her through this stage.

I have to admit, even though I consider myself a strong Christian, I really hesitate to take the advice of Christian parenting experts touting a single “biblical” method of raising children. At first, I didn’t know why. I’ve spent a couple months now in the Scriptures themselves as well as outside sources, and I think I can explain my discomfort with that now. I’m writing this to anyone else who may feel the same way – especially if those who can’t put their finger on the “off” feeling. [Clarity: I am writing about those experts who have a one-size-fits-all method, or ritual, designed to be used after any infraction by the child. These books are poplar and wide-spread and frequently taught in churches.]

The main reason I distrust those who claim there is one biblical method of discipline? Because God himself doesn’t use one consistent method of correction. Nor does He lay one out within the Word itself.

First, a short reflection on the ways God interacted with His children who disobeyed him:
  • When Moses hesitated, offering an abundance of excuses as to why he could not obey, he was given a helper in Aaron. (Exodus 3-4)
  • When the Israelites stepped out of God’s protection, He allowed them to experience the natural consequences of being a small nation surrounded by larger, ruthless ones. (See most of Israel’s history, 1 and 2 Kings)
  • When Jonah fled to Tarshish, he was stopped and then redirected on the Godly path. (Jonah)
  • Peter, after denying Christ, was shown love and forgiveness and given an opportunity to make things right. (John 25:15-19)

If I had more time, I’m sure I could find more. Four problems, four situations defined as sin, four different solutions from our loving, involved God.

Second, there is no detailed method of disciplining children laid out anywhere in Scripture. God certainly could if He had wanted. Look at the detailed building plans given to Noah for the ark, and to Moses for the tabernacle (Genesis 6; Exodus 26-28). Every specific instruction of the required sacrifices was included (Leviticus). I also see that when there is one and only one way, God makes that very clear:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

But what do we see God tell us about children?

Jesus took a little child and had him stand among them. “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:10-12)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

If God will take the time to craft every perfect snowflake to be unique, and no flower of the field looks exactly like another, why do we presume that one method of discipline would be correct for every individual child created in God’s image?!

Lest anyone think I jumped off the crazy train, I want to make my point exceptionally clear: I DO believe there is a biblical command for disciplining our children and to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I just also believe that the specific METHOD of discipline falls to each believing parent’s freedom influenced by Godly wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33) rather than a one-size-fits-all formula response. Clear as mud?

Oh, and don't be too surprised to see more of this topic. It's been the height of conversation around here lately.

No comments: