Writing to the Hebrew Christians the Apostle speaks at length on the subject of family discipline, beginning in chapter 12 verse 5. It is the Lord’s discipline of His children that is the principal subject of the following six verses, which immediately tell us that the believer has a heavenly Father who is deeply concerned with the life and behaviour of His family. The importance of chastisement for the correction of children is then firmly established and the benefit of this fatherly discipline is seen in verse 11 as it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who are influenced by it. As this subject of discipline is developed the Apostle speaks of the example of natural f’athers who have corrected us and for whom we have had the deepest
respect. This is no new subject in the Bible.
Going back to the Book of Proverbs takes us into an almost incessant emphasis on personal and family discipline as Solomon teaches those
principles which are to be the bed-rock of lives lived to the glory of God and in the comfort of well-ordered family relationships. He writes of a father teaching and disciplining his family in loving concern for the child’s proper behaviour and development. He commands the use of physical punishment whenever it is necessary and clearly shows that this is an act of fatherly love and not any kind of vicious abuse of children.
Going even further back to the giving of God’s law through Moses, it is evident that God requires the children to honour their parents and in Ephesians 6:2 Paul underlines the importance of that commandment as he points out that it is the first commandment with a promise attached.
One of the greatest curses to fall on the western nations of the world at the present time is the collapse of the family through easy divorce,
and through irresponsible parents who abdicate their position of authority in the family. The noisy insistence of those who are determined to ban all forms of physical punishment in families is directly opposed to the teaching of God’s Word. It is already producing such consequences that our legislators are totally at a loss to know how to stem the tide of youth crime and violence. Whilst there are many ways of guiding children short of physical punishment, the threat of the rod, according to Proverbs 13:24, must not be abandoned, ‘He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (or early)’. If children are not under parental discipline from the earliest years of their lives, the consequences in schools and in society generally will be disastrous. Indeed, the disaster is already upon us as many teachers face emotional breakdown with classes of seriously disturbed and unruly children and as children are attacked and robbed by other children in our streets. The chastisement or discipline required is an expression of parental love. It must never be overly severe so as to become bad-tempered abuse of a child but, as children vary so much in their reaction to discipline, the parent must retain the right to decide what is appropriate in each case. In Hebrews 12:6 the use of the word ‘scourgeth’ even indicates that our Lord may have to take severe measures with His erring children and scourging was not painless!
Far from the word ‘discipline’ being seen as a threat to a child’s happiness, the lack of discipline should be seen as inevitably producing misery, instability, and deep unhappiness in the child’s life. God, our creator, knows that we need limits in our lives and He has set those limits. It is the parents’ responsibility to teach and insist on the keeping of the limits within the family. Loving, caring parents will not shirk their responsibilities and Christian parents will take most seriously the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:4, ‘And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture (training or discipline) and admonition of the Lord.’