Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
God treats his people as sons. Hebrews 12:5 tells us that very clearly. And the author explains that sons receive discipline from their fathers. The discipline given out by the loving and holy God is the topic of the whole passage.
We fall into a trap when speaking of discipline. We think of it as the equivalent of punishment. “Academic discipline” involves revoking class credit, causing failure of a course, expulsion, or censure. Yet that is not the way the Bible normally uses the concept of discipline. It’s the root of what we would call “discipleship.” By discipline, God means the whole process of being taught to walk through life the way God in Christ intends us to walk. The music teacher disciplines the student by assigning specific exercises to practice. The math teacher disciplines the student by giving exercises that reinforce the concepts that need to be strengthened. The coach disciplines the athletes by having them run back and forth, up and down, jump over things, throw and catch things, and get knocked over. The master painter disciplines students by having them mix the color exactly and apply it with precision. The parent disciplines children by teaching them how we act and think in our family.
Back to our passage? What does the Word of God say? The Hebrews have not yet struggled against sin to the point of having their blood shed in the battle. They flinch in the face of danger. They have not learned to live a fearless life in Christ. Yet God is treating his people as sons, who receive the discipline of a father, learning to act and think like their father. The father’s discipline is given to them very clearly in Christ, God the Son, who faced disbelief, sin, and even death for the sake of those who would otherwise have no hope. Are the Hebrew Christians learning to live as Christ? Are they ready to face even death to tell of the riches of Christ’s forgiving love? Apparently some are not.
We, likewise, are unlikely to find ourselves ready for that test. Of course we hope we are, but we also hope we will never be tested in that manner. Do we believe that Christ gives life in exchange for death? Do we believe that we can walk by faith through this earthly life? Do we believe that God’s purpose is worked out in our everyday activities and that his love for our neighbor is to shine through us? Are we willing to lay down our lives for our families? God is the one treating us as sons, teaching us to live as he lives in the world, doing all of this and more. Our confidence is that in the person and work of Jesus for us, someone has gone before us. We can walk as he walked, depending on the grace of the Father, and knowing that Jesus himself has faced death and conquered it on ourbehalf. We can trust in his righteousness and forgiving grace.
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