Parenting

Biblical Parenting – 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves punishment,
and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:18

As we examine this passage through the lens of Biblical parenting, we can learn four foundational truths that will transform our relationship with our children, but also our relationship with God:

  1. There is no fear in love.
    Fear and love are mutually exclusive.  This is just as true in our relationship with God as it is with our children.  When love is present, fear cannot be found.  When I am fully aware of God’s love for me, I will have no reason to fear.  Likewise, when our children are fully aware of our love for them, they will have no reason to fear.  If there is fear in our hearts or in the hearts of our children, that should be a warning sign that there is either a lack of love or a lack of awareness of that love.
  2. Perfect love casts out fear.
    The love that is referred to in this passage is the Greek word “agape.”  Agape love is a willful delight, goodwill and benevolence towards someone.  While this verse states that perfect love casts out fear, the only one who truly loves perfectly is God Himself because He is love (1 John 4:8).  How can imperfect people possibly love with a perfect love?  In order to answer this question, we must understand the meaning of the Greek word “teleios.”  Teleios – while translated as “perfect” – does not mean flawless, but rather it means a love that is mature, finished and complete. Only God can love with a flawless love, but we can absolutely love our children in a way that is mature and complete.  The result of that kind of love will be that fear will be cast out.  Just as the presence of light makes darkness disappear, the presence of love makes fear disappear.
  3. Fear involves punishment.
    The word translated in this phrase as “involves” is the Greek word “echo.”  Ironically enough, this word is used 648 times in the Bible, but is only translated as “involves” one time.  It means “to have; to possess; to be closely joined to a person or thing.”  Fear is closely joined to punishment.  Punishment is purposefully causing pain (whether physical or emotional) and produces fear within our hearts.  When you think about going to Hell or being punished by God for your sins, how do you feel?  Fear.  When a child is about to be punished with a spanking, what does he feel?  Fear.  However, we do not need to fear punishment anymore because Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin when He laid down His life for His sheep on the cross.  There is NO MORE PUNISHMENT for us!  This is the beauty of the Gospel.  If there is no more punishment for us, then why do we insist upon punishing our children?  What if we interacted with our children based on the truth that all of their punishment for all of their sins has already been satisfied by the blood of Jesus Christ?
  4. The one who fears is not perfected in love.
    Do you fear?  When was the last time you felt afraid?  Think back on that moment.  How differently would that moment have been if you were fully convinced and aware of God’s deep love, care and affection for you?  We do not need to fear anything anymore!  Sickness, poverty, death, the Devil, Hell – Jesus has overcome it all through His blood on the cross!  His love has been perfected for us and in us.  Again, any fear in my heart should be a red flag that I am not living in the reality of the truth that I am fully forgiven and fully loved by God.  Imagine what it would be like to parent from that reality – that my child is fully forgiven and fully loved by God (and by me).

 

I pray that the power of these truths would be evident in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your children.  Within this verse, we see the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross.  Because of His sacrifice on our behalf and in our place, God no longer relates to us according to our sins (Psalm 103:10).  Are there consequences for our sin?  Of course.  But there is no longer any punishment for us.

What would it be like to parent your child without punishing them?
Are you worried that they would never obey and just run around wild?

Notice the heart behind this worry – “if there is no punishment for them to fear, they will never obey.”
Again, we see the connection between fear and punishment.

However, God does not want us to obey Him because we fear punishment.  God wants us to obey Him because He loves us, we know that He loves us and because we love Him.  The fact that God loved us enough to pour our punishment out upon His Son, Jesus, on the cross is what motivates us to obey.  We can trust that His perfect love will perfect us.

God wants our obedience to be motivated by love and not fear of punishment!

As parents, we should desire the same for our children.

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What do you fear?
  2. What aspect of God’s love are you doubting in that fear?
  3. Are you obeying God out of love or fear of punishment?
  4. Do your children obey you out or love or fear of punishment?
  5. How does God relate to you now that Jesus has fulfilled all your punishment?
  6. How does it feel to know that because of Jesus, there is no more punishment for you?
  7. What would it be like to parent without punishment?
  8. What concerns do you have about living out the reality of the Gospel that Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross?
  9. What attitudes do you have that cause fear in your children?
  10. What actions do you take that cause fear in your children?
  11. How can you repent of those attitudes/actions?
  12. What could you do instead of punishing your children?  (If you’re not sure, pray about it and check back here soon!)

 

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Parenting, spanking

Part 7: How Does God Discipline?

The first time the word “discipline” is found in the Bible is in Deuteronomy 4:36.

Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you;
and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.

God disciplined the Jews by letting them HEAR his voice. In English, the word “discipline” connotes physical punishment.  However in Hebrew, the word “yacar” means to teach or instruct.  The emphasis is on verbal teaching or instruction.

God also disciplined (taught/instructed) the Jews by letting them SEE.

Know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and
who have not seen the discipline of the LORD your God
– His greatness,
His mighty hand and His outstretched arm,
and His signs
and His works
which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; (Deuteronomy 11:2-3)

Scripture teaches that they SAW His discipline. What did they see? They saw God’s greatness, His mighty hand, His outstretched arm, His signs and His works throughout Egypt that God did to judge Egypt and to set the Jews free.

Let’s examine another commonly quoted passage replacing the word “discipline” with its true Hebrew meaning of “teaching/instruction.”

Hebrews 12:5-11
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the [teaching or instruction] of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved [convicted] by him. For the Lord [teaches or instructs] the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for [teaching and instruction] that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [teach or instruct]? If you are left without [instruction], in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who [taught and instructed] us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

This passage makes complete sense when reading it in light of the knowledge that we should understand Hebrew discipline as verbal teaching and instruction. Just as God teaches and instructs us, we should also teach and instruct our children.

 

 

 

 

What can we learn from other passages of Scripture about the true nature of God’s discipline?

But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth? “For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you. (Psalm 50:16-17)

Again, notice the connection between DISCIPLINE and God’s Words. The wicked who hated God’s discipline cast aside His words. It would not make any sense to interpret discipline in this passage as physical punishment.

 

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light;
And reproofs [correction] for discipline [teaching] are the way of life.
(Proverbs 6:23)

Again we see that it is through correction that we are taught the right way to live. Commandments and teaching are intimately connected to reproof and discipline.

 

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.
(Proverbs 12:1)

Would this verse make any sense if discipline referred to physical punishment? Not at all. But when we read this scripture in light of its true meaning, it makes perfect sense! Whoever loves teaching and instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

 

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
(Job 5:17)

This verse would also not make any sense if reproof and discipline are simply meant to be physical punishment. We also see a clear instruction to not despise the teaching and instruction of the LORD. The word “despise” is most often translated as “reject.” Do not reject the teaching of the LORD.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
(Proverbs 3:11)

Another instance in which we see a command to not despise [reject] the LORD’s discipline [teaching]. It would not make sense to interpret this passage as a command to not “reject physical punishment.” Instead, we are commanded to heed the teaching and instruction of the LORD.

 

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline,
But he who regards reproof will be honored.
(Proverbs 13:18)

The word “neglects” in this verse means “to ignore.” It makes sense to say that poverty and shame will come to someone who ignores instruction. But the person who regards [listens to] correction will be honored.

 

A fool rejects his father’s discipline,
But he who regards reproof is sensible.
(Proverbs 15:5)

This verse is an example of antithetical parallelism in the book of Proverbs in which the first portion of the verse is meant to serve as the antithesis – or direct contrast – to the second portion of the verse. We can clearly see that this verse not referring to physical punishment. The author is contrasting a fool that rejects his father’s teaching and instruction with one who listens to his father’s correction and is wise.

 

He who neglects discipline despises himself,
But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.
(Proverbs 15:32)

If I neglect spanking, I despise myself? That makes no sense. But the one who neglects teaching and instruction? That would be someone who despises himself. The one who LISTENS to reproof acquires understanding. Again we see the connection between discipline and reproof and WORDS – not actions.

 

Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
But the discipline of fools is folly.
(Proverbs 16:22)

Here we see another example of antithetical parallelism in the book of Proverbs. This is a clear example of a comparison of the wisdom of understanding and the foolishness of the teaching of fools.

 

Discipline your son while there is hope,
And do not desire his death.
(Proverbs 19:18)

Are you getting it yet? Now can you read this verse and clearly see what this Proverb is trying to teach us?

 

Listen to counsel and accept discipline,
That you may be wise the rest of your days.
(Proverbs 19:20)

LISTEN to counsel (words) and accept discipline (physical discipline?) so that you may be WISE. Would it make sense to interpret this verse as accepting physical punishment in order to be wise? The passage is clearly speaking of accepting instruction so that we may be wise.

 

Cease listening, my son, to discipline,
And you will stray from the words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 19:27)

In this verse, we learn that we can stop LISTENING to discipline. Discipline simply cannot be interpreted as physical punishment.

 

Apply your heart to discipline
And your ears to words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 23:12)

Another parallel passage in Proverbs teaching us to apply our HEARTS and our EARS to instruction and to knowledge.

 

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;
therefore be zealous and repent.
(Revelation 3:19)

God teaches and convicts those whom He loves. Something interesting about this verse is that the word “zealous” is the Greek word “zelos” which means “excitement of mind” and the word “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeo” which means “to change one’s mind.” The verse is literally saying that because God teaches and convicts those He loves, we should be excited and change our minds.

 

 

 

God is described as our Father. However, God not only teaches and instructs us. There are almost 100 passages of Scripture that refer to God’s compassion upon us as His children.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
(Psalm 103:13)

This word to “have compassion” means “to love deeply and to have mercy.” God, as our Father, has compassion and mercy on us, and He loves us deeply!

 

You, O LORD, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
(Psalm 40:11)

This is such an amazing verse! We see three attributes of God that “continually preserve us:” His compassion, His lovingkindness and His truth. Likewise, we should parent with compassion, lovingkindness and truth.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
(Isaiah 49:15)

I love the imagery of this verse! God promises that He will not forget us, but will instead have compassion on us.

 

In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment,
But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,”
Says the LORD your Redeemer.
(Isaiah 54:8)

Notice that it was in ANGER that God HID from us, but His lovingkindness brought us back into fellowship with Him as He had compassion on us.

 

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What is the Hebrew concept of “discipline”?
  2. How does the Hebrew concept of discipline differ from the Western view of discipline?
  3. How does God discipline His children?
  4. How did your parents teach and instruct you?
  5. When was a time when your parents showed you compassion? How did you respond?
  6. How did your parents respond to you when they were angry? What impact did their anger have on your relationship with them?
  7. How have you responded to your children in anger? What was the impact of your anger on your children? What was the impact of your anger on you?
  8. What would it look like to continually and intentionally draw our children back into fellowship with us through lovingkindness and compassion?
  9. When is a time that you would typically respond to your children in anger? How can you plan to show them compassion instead?
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