A kitten swatting at a cat's tail, Haven, KS

Why the why in discipline matters

When was the last time you got spanked? It’s honestly been so long since my parents punished me for anything, I don’t remember. Not that I was a great kid. I was actually the bad one. Or rather, the independent one. I liked doing things my own way, and I was stubborn about it. (Imagine that, right?)

Even then, I don’t remember the last spanking I got. While I didn’t always agree with them, I always understood why it was necessary. And growing up, I learned not to do the things Mom and Dad said were wrong because I didn’t want to be punished. But as I got older, I began to understand that the things Mom and Dad said were wrong really actually were wrong. They weren’t trying to prevent me from having a good time. They were trying to protect me from doing something that could damage my life.

So as I grew older, I stopped obeying them out of fear of punishment and started obeying because I recognized their rules existed for my benefit.

Typo as a kitten swatting at Gremlin's tail, Haven, KS

Typo as a kitten swatting at Gremlin’s tail, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 3:11-12.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

Anyone ever have a similar experience with God? When you first met Him, did you do what He said was right because you were afraid of being punished? Did you only obey Him because you feared what He would do to you if you disobeyed?

Well, I could be opening a can of worms, but I really don’t know if God works like that. Now, will He allow you to face the consequences of your actions? Definitely. But is He watching for the moment you make a mistake to smash you with a hammer? No.

I remember being young, both in age and in my relationship with Jesus, and I was often afraid that I would do something wrong. And if I hated spankings from my parents, I could just imagine what a spanking from God would be like. So growing up, I always made sure to obey the rules because I didn’t want to be punished.

But I’m older now. I’ve known Jesus for a long time. And after all the years I’ve walked with Him, after all the life He’s let me experience, I can honestly tell you that fearing punishment isn’t the way to build a relationship with Him.

The same holds true for your parents. If you go through life just doing what they say so you won’t get in trouble, you’ll never understand why. And it’s often the why that leads us into closer relationships with others. It’s the why that breaks down the walls of our communication and gives us a glimpse at someone else’s heart.

I’ve known too many people who treated God like a strict disciplinarian. And I can tell you, each one of those people were never interested in getting to know Him. If that’s the way you see Him, you won’t want to take the time to get to know Him.

Because, honestly, who wants to know somebody like that? People like that are hard to get along with and uncomfortable to be around. And those people do exist. But God isn’t that way. And I can say that because I know Him personally.

There’s nothing wrong with the parent-child relationship that begins with obedience through fear of punishment. In many instances, that’s the only way to get through to a strong-willed, hard-headed child. But just because the relationship begins there doesn’t mean it has to stay there. If that same relationship exists when the child is an adult, something is wrong. If that same relationship exists when the child is grown, the child never actually grew up.

Relationships are supposed to grow. And maybe you start obeying because you’re afraid of discipline, but if you take the time to understand why the discipline is important, you’ll get to the place where you understand your authorities better. And—here’s a shocker—you might even agree with them.

So what rule are you having trouble obeying right now? Have you taken the time to understand it? Have you taken the time to ask why it matters to your authorities?

If you’re fine living in fear of punishment for the rest of your life, that’s up to you. And, true, just because you understand a rule doesn’t mean that you’ll escape punishment if you break it. But understanding a rule will help you take a step toward building a relationship with people in authority over you, and that will have a tremendous effect on your attitude.

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I hate religion

Fear is a powerful motivator, but it’s not always as effective as it could be. When I think of fear as a motivator, I think of the times I’ve had to cover my tracks because I was afraid someone would discover something I did wrong. It’s not usually the best way to convince people to do things.

It’s not the best way to make friends, although I’ve met a number of people who use it to their advantage. They have a list of rules or standards that you have to meet as a friend or else they’ll disown you. It’s not the way to be a family, fearing excessive punishment for imperfection. It’s not even the best way to run a business. I guess there is some use in fearing for your job, but if your employees spend all their time afraid that their next day will be their last, the quality of their work will decrease.

Those are all examples of how fear doesn’t really work in relationships, and I thought about many of them when I read the verse for today.

1 John 4:18

 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

 But what I thought about first is the concept of religion. There is no love in religion. Have you ever thought about that? Religion is a set of do’s and don’t’s, ritual law with no real meaning behind it. It clings to traditions that it has forgotten the purpose of. And it holds its victims in check with fear.

If you don’t dress a certain way, you won’t be saved. If you don’t follow these rituals, you won’t be saved. If you don’t read the right translation of the Bible, you won’t be saved. If you don’t live the way you’re supposed to, your next life will be miserable. If you don’t control your anger, you’ll never reach Nirvana.

No matter what religion you’re talking about, they are all the same. They rule people with fear. And while fear can be a great motivator, it’s not effective because people want more than a God they’re scared of.

I always wondered about the people who sacrified their children in ancient times. It always seemed amazing to me that a mother could lack the maternal instincts enough to kill her own child. It still surprises me now in today’s world, but we’ve had generations of indoctrination telling women that babies aren’t really babies. So on one hand, I’m guess it’s not too unexpected that a mother could kill her child before it’s born. But in ancient times (and even today still in some parts of the world), infants were sacrificed after they were born healthy. How could a mother do that?

Could it have been fear? People do crazy things when they’re afraid. And prevailing religion at the time was to sacrifice your children or your soul would be lost.

Religion is the most dangerous weapon in the world because it enslaves people to either a distant, uncaring God or a tyrannical, bloodthirsty God who demands obediance but gives nothing in return.

That’s why I hate religion. Religion has destroyed so many lives and turned so many people against God, and that was never the way it was supposed to be. Religion is a tool of man used to control other people. Wear this. Sing that. Read this. Do that. Or else. And it’s not right.

Please don’t misunderstand me. God is a God of wrath and definitely worthy of our fear. Think of the person you respect the most. Would you approach that person with impudence? Would you treat them rudely or demand things of them or not give them the credit they deserve? Of course not! So how much more should you respect God when He’s the one Who created the Universe? No. God is a God who we should definitely be afraid of — but it’s not the same kind of fear.

Religion has told us that God punishes people. He doesn’t. We punish ourselves. We suffer punishment because we have sinned or because the world is just broken.

God is perfect, holy justice and that which is imperfect or unjust can’t be in His presence. But that’s why He sent Jesus. To make us perfect. To make us holy. To show us how much God loves us. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are able to approach God on a one-on-one basis (not face to face yet but someday soon). We don’t need anyone to talk to God for us. We don’t need anyone to explain the Bible to us. If Christ is your Savior, God is your Father. And He’s more than that. He’s your Dad.

God wants to have a relationship with us. That’s why He created us. He loves us so intensely that He was willing to give Himself to pay the penalty for our sin.

I’m sorry, folks, but that doesn’t sound like fear to me. That doesn’t sound like a relationship that demands exacting obediance and then returns nothing. That doesn’t sound like religion based on fear of damnation.

There is a choice. Believe or don’t believe. One will save you. The other one will condemn you. But Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world. The world was already condemned. He came to make a way for us to be saved. And He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. If you’re forced to take a gift, is it still a gift that you have accepted? There’s no point in that.

Perfect love expels all fear.

God’s love is perfect. So don’t be afraid.