READ: Psalm 109, Micah 7, John 13, Philippians 3
Disciples of Jesus have lost appreciation for punishment. Christianity is not a consequence-free zone and grace does not preclude discipline. Even godly people (like generally good children) need punishment from time to time, something taken away, something denied, something painful to teach a lesson. David and Moses are classic examples of beloved children who were punished. Just because eternal punishment (hell) has been avoided, it does not mean we are exempt from temporal punishment when we sin. Sin continues to have consequences post-conversion and a loving Heavenly Father steadfastly continues to punish His children–not punitively but with the aim of restoration. When grace is twisted into something that eliminates all punishment, it is disfigured.
Micah concedes, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against Him. Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me” (7:9). When God punishes us (i.e. spiritually sends us to our room for a “time-out”), there is no recourse but to wait, to allow our punishment to run its course. When we have disobeyed God, there is no court of appeal; there is only the process of time and the acceptance of our punishment. Punishment is humbling, reminding us not to have any confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3), but it is also encouraging. Punishment reminds us that God loves us so much He is committed to eradicating our sin. Micah goes on to say of the Lord: “He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. [He] will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea” (7:19). Discipline is a gift, for it vividly demonstrates God’s commitment to subdue our sin. We are unable to conquer the flesh within us, and when it rises up, God uses punishment to say: “Step aside and let me deal with this. Sin is too ingrained in you, and your recent folly shows its ongoing power. Sit still for a while, cease your activity, and let me go to work to pound this evil out of you.”
The excellence of the knowledge of Christ (Phil. 3:8), being found in Him (v. 9), and knowing Him (v. 10) cannot be fully realized outside of the punishment process. It is not only in joys and victories that the glory of Jesus is known; it is also our sin and the consequences of our actions (including God’s punishment) that unveils wonderful Jesus to us. Punishment is a revelation of both ourselves and the Savior and should not be discarded from the disciples’ experience. If God is determined to lovingly punish us that we might know Him better and that sin might be subdued in us, we should not be reluctant to punish those we love in the household of faith. We have a responsibility to graciously punish those that sin or rebel; without punishment they cannot fully know God nor be free from sin. It is in punishment that God both subdues us and the sin within.