Hebrews 12.6

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves.
The reason there is suffering in my life is because there’s suffering in the world. — Timothy Keller

The New Testament carefully parses the difference between suffering, punishment, and discipline. Suffering is often seen as the absorbed effects of sin outside of ourselves. Broken people rage against us while a broken world destroys our body through death and disease.

The faithful are instructed to persevere in suffering because God will be faithful to work in us through the suffering. In a series entitled, The Nature Of Faith, Timothy Keller explains, “This is a broken world. God has said he’s going to deal with it some day. Meanwhile, he’s going to bring good out of it somehow. I know this.”

Punishment and discipline come from another angle—God’s reaction to sin. The most simple way to parse the difference between the two comes in an instructive article to parents from Focus on the Family:

Punishment produces some very negative characteristics in your children: guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, regret, self-pity, fear, and more. Because it’s focused on the past, children feel helpless. They can’t undo what they’ve already done, and they can’t change the circumstances that their behavior has produced.

Discipline, on the other hand, is future-focused, always pointing toward future acts. It has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with redemption.

Punishment is retributive. Discipline is formative. Hebrews 12 opens by asking Christians to “look to Jesus.” It’s a challenge to consider the way he bore the discipline earned by our sin; “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Forcing suffering into the framework of discipline destroy’s people’s hope. Dr. Keller concludes, “A Christian says, I do deserve it, but it’s not punishment… God would never take two payments for the same debt.”

God disciplines those he loves. Again, Focus on the Family highlights the emphasis of a parent with their beloved child:
Whereas the purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty for an offense, the purpose of discipline is to train for correction and maturity. Whereas the origin of punishment is the frustration of the parent, the origin of discipline is a high moti­vation for the welfare of the child. And whereas the result of punishment is fear and shame, the result of discipline is security. Discipline always holds the child’s best interests, not the parent’s anger, in the forefront. It is never out of control.

Today’s Reading
1 Chronicles 9-10 (Listen – 7:48)
Hebrews 12 (Listen – 4:36)