My son recently reminded me about the connection between discipline and love. At ten years old, high-energy Matthew had experienced his fair share of spankings. At one time, my husband theorized that perhaps spankings simply didn’t work with our son, and we decided to abandon the corrective measure all together. But then we noticed something. Matthew seemed to be acting out all the more just to get our attention. It was as if he was saying, “Hey! Aren’t you going to spank me? Don’t you love me anymore?”
I prayed about how to handle our son’s need for discipline, and finally one day as he was misbehaving I asked, “Matthew, do you need a spanking?”
I was floored when he responded, “Yeah, I think I do.
After I spanked him, with tears in his eyes, he hugged me as if to say, “Thanks, Mom. I needed that.” The rest of the evening, I noticed how different his whole attitude was. He was courteous at the dinner table. He was punctual about getting his homework done. He even helped his sister with her chores. He was a completely different kid.
As Greg and I tried to analyze what we’d done differently, we realized that we usually waited until our son had pushed us over the edge and then we spanked him out of anger. The spanking provided a little venting for our own personal steam, but didn’t really do much for Matthew’s behavior. But this time, I had disciplined our son out of love, and it turned him into a loving little kid.
In contrast, when God disciplines us, it is never out of anger. The Bible tells us numerous times that God is slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). When God disciplines us, it is truly because He wants the best for us. It is God’s kindness that leads us to true repentance (Romans 2:4). His compassionate correction should produce in us the same result as my correction produced in Matthew–we should soften and become loving as we submit.