Respect, Rules, and Discipline

November 23, 2023

Children are going to do foolish things. But correcting them will drive that foolishness far away. Proverbs 22:15 NIRV

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NLT

It’s a sad truth, but years of counseling broken people with hearts of rebellion toward God and His church prove what occasionally comes out as a public scandal—parents in the Christian world often unwittingly drive their children away from God by mishandling correction and discipline. I was not even a parent myself yet when a high school girl just graduating responded to my urging to continue in church now that she was moving out with, “I don’t think so. If a Christian is what my parents are, I have had more than enough for a lifetime.” Her parents were totally normal from the outside, but a deeper look revealed raging at home, double standards, harsh punishment, and unrespectable behavior.

No Scripture can be read and understood correctly outside the context of the whole Bible, and certainly not outside the context of the character and command of Jesus. We all are familiar with the one command of Jesus—to love everyone as He has loved us. That command is first applicable in our own homes. To simply read Proverbs 22:15 without that context can twist and pervert parental behavior into something that may get compliance, but never leads to life change and true correction.

If you search everything you can find in the Bible about discipline and instruction, you will find that rules and laws are powerless to change the human heart. You won’t find punishment in the way Jesus treated people. When Jesus worked with others, He was never abusive but always worked to correct and discipline. Discipline and correction points to the future. It is action with intention to create new understanding and choices. Punishment is simply focused on the past—what happened. It is giving out what we feel another person deserves. Discipline is focused on the future—making a new way possible.

Discipline is enabled within relationships of love and respect. Hebrews 12:6 says that the Lord disciplines the one He loves, the one He calls His own child. It’s an ongoing conversation, shaping His child with love. He respects us, and His character commands our respect. Jesus tells us to follow Him—to live the way He lived. That’s the kind of respectability that has the power to discipline a child—they see the parent behaving in the same way they want their child to behave. “Don’t so what I do—do what I say!” is never a part of their spoken or unspoken conversation. The child has a living example of character, respect, and good choices.

  • Jesus, I know I can be exasperating at times. Help me live a life of love, respect, and personal consistency. Help me be someone that my children can respect and believe in.