Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1, 2
I admit that, for years, my understanding of discipline was one dimensional and outcome-driven: well-behaved children, submitted to authority. While these are necessary and desirable, they are the fruit of the real goal, not the goal in and of themselves. God’s call to parents is to train up their child in the way he/she should go (Proverbs 22:6), his/her own dynamic relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. I now realize every aspect of parenting should focus on that goal, including discipline.
In John 10:10 Jesus says that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Paul’s revelation from the resurrected Christ goes further. He says Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4, emphasis added) and the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17). The writer of Hebrews, using a race analogy, encourages believers to persevere in a race that depends on faith in Jesus from beginning to end. I enjoy watching track meets and I‘ve noticed that elite track stars focus on the finish line from the start of the race. Even if a competitor stumbles or veers into their lane, as long as they look ahead to the finish they come out on top. Likewise, the believer’s journey requires faith in Jesus at the start line, the finish line and all along the way. How we discipline our children can be a stepping stone, helping them see Jesus and advancing their faith in Him, or a stumbling block. “How so?” you ask.
It takes faith to live the life Jesus gives us and there are a couple obstacles to that found in Hebrews 12:1: shame and sin-focus. The Greek word for weight in this verse refers to a burden that is carried in arms. What are those weights? The Holy Spirit brought my attention to the next verse where it says Jesus despised the shame. Whose shame? Certainly not His, He never sinned; but we do which is why He went to the cross. He not only took the full punishment for every sin we have and would ever commit (endured the cross); He despised the shame which in the Greek means He saw absolutely no value in it. Shame is a burden the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety.” Jesus came to ease the burden, not add to it (Matthew 11:28). I know you’re wondering what this has to do with discipline, but hang in there with me.
Within this context God describes His discipline of His children in subsequent verses 5-11. One noted pastor characterized godly discipline as shifting the believer’s focus from himself/herself to Jesus. Shame has no place in godly discipline. Shaming and harping on our children’s failures causes them to focus on themselves (their flesh or effort) where nothing good dwells (Romans 7:18). That leads to hopelessness then self-condemnation, a stumbling block to walking in the abundant, victorious life Jesus came to give them. Both parents and children need to understand that we are already forgiven because God thoroughly punished Jesus in our place (Hebrews 10:10-17). Jesus took our sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 5:16, 18; 8:1)! When we use discipline to train our children in whom they are in Christ because of what He has done, their wrongs become stepping stones to a better view of the finish line, Jesus. They can run on while being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29) and we can trust Him to keep them from stumbling along the way (Jude 1:24).
© Vanessa A. Harris and The Legacy of Faith, 2011