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Breaking the Stick

Your kids require you most of all to love them… not to spend your whole time trying to correct them. —Bill Ayers

As a boy, I attended a strict English parochial school where the teachers were free to use corporal punishment. One year, my classroom received a new blackboard. I thought it was the most beautiful thing. All I wanted to do was draw on it. Class hadn’t started yet, so I found a tiny piece of white chalk and made my mark in the left corner. Just then, I heard the teacher coming into the room, so I quickly erased it. But my small mark turned into a large smudge.

The teacher stood before the class and asked, “Who drew on my new chalkboard?”

I knew what came next, so I confessed, walked to the front, and put my hands on her desk. Smack! A bamboo pole smarted my knuckles.

I never touched that chalkboard again.

“Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:6)

Childhood has taught us that punishment comes after disobedience. After all, no just parent punishes an innocent child. So, when we come to Hebrews 12:6, we bring all of our personal experiences into that verse and decide that God disciplines His kids. Why? Hebrews 12:4 seems to set the stage for discipline: “In your struggle against sin…”

But what if we’ve incorrectly defined sin?

Again, working backward in context, we read Hebrews 12:3 and find sin defined this way: Consider [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The Hebrew church was experiencing persecution, struggling against maltreatment from those who misunderstood them! In that pain, the congregation wanted to know: How should a believer endure hardship and suffering?

The answer is found in Hebrews 12:6—Endure hardship and suffering by remembering how deeply loved you are by God. There are no bruised knuckles in God’s classroom.

Father, lead me away from fear of Your punishment and toward Your love. Grow my confidence in You as I endure difficulties. Amen.
Dive deeper into Hebrews with Pete’s video series Better: A New and Living Way!
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