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Fathers, 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)

Sometimes it’s important to remember that the chapter numbers and verse numbers in the Bible are fairly recent additions. Before that there were no divisions to the books and letters of the Bible. The reader would understand the change in thought processes of the author by wording and grammatical changes much as we do in a novel or other piece of journalism.

When the Apostle Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus he was writing about practical living as Christ followers. The particular section our verse comes from today is a whole section on family living that begins with “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (5:21). Then Paul goes on to give examples to wives, husbands, parents, children and bosses and employees on how to be submissive to each other because of Jesus Christ and our desire to follow Him.

When Paul addresses fathers in Ephesians 6:4 he’s not really telling the rest of us to stop listening. The lesson he is teaching fathers is one each of us should learn to follow. The lesson is basically this. Our actions towards others should never intentionally cause them to be angry.

Discipline has gotten a bad rap in our society because it is often linked with or confused with punishment. The root word of ‘discipline’ is disciple, a word that implies a follower or a set of rules or a person. It is not a ‘forced event’ but a voluntary one. Punishment on the other hand is something that is forced upon a person.

  • Punishment can be done in anger and cause permanent damage.
    • Discipline is never done in anger and while it can be painful, the pain is temporary.
  • Punishment can cause hatred or frustration on the part of the receiver.
    • Discipline may cause temporary misunderstanding but eventually the receiver see the value of the ‘rules’.
  • Punishment can often be an act of aggression and frustration on the part of the deliverer of the punishment.
    • Discipline is done in patience and love.
  • Punishment can be administered to protect the person who does the punishment to ‘protect himself’.
    • Discipline is always done for the benefit of the receiver, perhaps even at some cost to the person doing the discipling.
  • Punishment degrades both parties in the ‘situation’.
    • Discipline elevates both parties in the ‘situation’.
  • Punishment forces the individual being punished into a mold that may not be in his/her best interest.
    • Discipline shapes a person’s character in a way that best fulfills his/her gifts and abilities.
  • Punishment changes behavior.
    • Discipline grows character.
  • Punishment is quick and effective.
    • Discipline is time consuming and eternal.

Each of us, no matter what role we play in life will, at some time, be in a position where we are training others for life’s journey. The best way we can do that is to disciple those around us by:

  • allowing them to grow at their own pace.
  • showing them the way of true life through Jesus Christ.
  • Praying that Jesus will change their minds towards Him.
  • Patiently determining to love them regardless of the choices they make.

PRAYER: Holy Father. I am a victim of punishment done with good intent but with painful results. As I’ve grown older I’ve tended to follow the same patterns I learned as I grew up. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to love as Jesus loved, disciple as He disciple and help those around me to grow in character as a result of what they see in me. Forgive me for the pain I’ve caused. Heal the scars of my past. Amen.

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June 2010
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