BEST APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE V: PROPER APPLICATION OF DISCIPLINE #2
In this segment, by God’s grace, we conclude this teaching series. We have looked at the motivation and prerequisites for discipline. We began to share ideas on the proper application of discipline in the last segment, namely:
1. Find out who God wants to handle various cases. Don’t always assume you are the one. God may want you to step aside for Him to act.
2. Give a fair hearing to the one who has done wrong before administering punishment.
3. Be lenient with first offenders and the remorseful.
Endeavour to read the previous instalments for a comprehensive view of what has been presented. Each segment has been illustrated to highlight its kernel.
PROPER APPLICATION OF DISCIPLINE #2
4. You need to be creative in your approach to punishing your subordinates for it to be effective and, for that, you need the help of the Holy Spirit. There are different means that you can adopt in this regard. Study the people under you so that you know the kind of punishment that will get their attention. For example, declaring prayer and fasting for a ward that loves food can get them on their best behaviour faster than caning them. The fast can also be on something else they cherish like social media interaction or denial of certain privileges.
We had a phase when my “daughter” was wasting food, just throwing stuff away. After she failed to heed some warnings on the matter, I told her to bring some fullscap sheets and made her copy John 6:12 where Jesus said to let nothing be wasted upon some of them. You may think that’s nothing but you don’t know my daughter. She hated writing so much that she did her assignments direct and submitted them without recopying, no drafts or revisions. It used to amaze me how she would assemble material, read and start composing a paper with little or no cancellations. (I’m talking about being able to organise the work well enough at first attempt to make a high score in it.) But that became my “weapon” on that occasion and after the punishment, she became very careful with food.
I saw this example from the Bible. Don’t know how good it is in this context but I hope it helps. Wnen Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses in Numbers, chapter 12, she and Aaron got a rebuke from God but she got leprosy as well. Perhaps, God considered that such a disease would prevent Aaron from carrying out his priestly duties or the whole thing may have been Miriam’s idea, being the oldest of the three. Besides, Aaron had shown himself to be quite pliable given the incident with the golden calf in Exodus, chapter 32. Anyway, whatever the reason for the different treatment, it worked perfectly as neither of them challenged Moses again.
On the other hand, physical punishment, like flogging, which is common in places like Africa is actually overrated and can quickly backfire. Attempts to discipline teenagers in this way, for instance, have been known to degenerate into wrestling bouts between them and their older siblings, parents and teachers. How embarrassing! Seek God’s counsel for what would work best in each situation.
5. Do not subject anyone to punishment that drags on interminably. Do not try to break their spirit like torture technicians. I don’t see what can be accomplished by asking a child to kneel down for hours or to cut grasses for the whole day. If the aim is actually to reform, then punishment should be meted out in manageable doses and the person at the receiving end should be observed for genuine signs of remorse. When that is shown, you can halt the punishment as God did when the angel was poised to destroy Jerusalem after David conducted an unauthorized census of the fighting men in Israel (2 Samuel 24:16).
There was an occasion in the Corinthian church when someone was undergoing punishment for some wrongdoing and this is the admonition that the Apostle Paul gave about it. The verses in which this directive is contained speak to this number in our discussion and the final one that succeeds it.
2 Corinthians 2:5-8, 11 – NIV
“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him … in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
The New Living Translation says where sorrow was spoken of above, “Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement” (v. 7b).
6. After punishment should come reaffirmation of your love and care for the subject. Endless scolding and snide references to past wrongs can harm the subject psychologically. There is a scripture that portrays the tenderness of God and we need to cultivate that trait. It is a prophetic reference to the Messiah, the true representation of the Most High, as judge of the Gentiles.
Isaiah 42:1, 3 (KJV)
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”
People who habitually misbehave have a problem already. Sone have negative notions of themselves. Some are, in a twisted way, seeking attention and love. Hammering on their misconduct relentlessly will not bring healing but could further damage them – “breaking the bruised reed.”
Such behaviour also poisons the atmosphere and can hinder the Holy Spirit, the main person you need to bring conviction of wrongdoing and a turnaround for the better, from acting fully. Besides, it could create room for an endless cycle of wrongdoing and punishment that will only harden your subordinates. In other words, any little desire or inclination they have to be good might be lost because they might give in to the morbid urge to meet your worst expectations – “quenching the smoking flax.”
Also, remember you are not in competition with people under you. Don’t be tempted into thinking you have to subdue them at every point and show them who is in charge. If God has put you on top, anyone who disputes that will answer to Him sooner or later. When you rail and shout at your underlings as if you people are co-wives in a polygamous home, it won’t be long before they start to talk back and you find that controlling them just became much harder.
And let your show of concern go beyond the point right after punishment. Don’t let them see you only as the one who wields the big stick. even if it’s in a figurative sense only. Let them see you also as the one who notices when they are sad or sick and strives to make things better. That way, they will be eager to please you, will be more receptive of your corrections and whatever punishment they incur for bad behaviour will be received in good grace, thereby serving its purpose as was the case with David in Psalm 51.
Conclusion for the series:
The material shared in this series, as I pointed out at the beginning, are the ideas I’ve learnt from experience, my study of the Bible and personal relationship with God. They have worked for me in every setting where I’ve had people under me – that is, within my home and without. I believe that if you apply them, by God’s grace, you too will have excellent results from your efforts to discipline those under you. May the Lord bless you richly in Jesus ‘ name!
Our Lord and Father, we thank You for the loving way You correct us when we err. Help us to be as gracious to those You have placed under us. We make ourselves availabe to be used by You to curb their negative behaviours, inculcate positive attitudes in them and bring heartwarming change to their lives. Above all, help us to be a light that directs them to You. We can do none of this by ourselves, so we implore the assistance of Your holy and gentle Spirit every single day.
And, Father, as we seek to build others, may we not neglect to work on ourselves since none of us is as perfect as we should be yet. May we, therefore, humble ourselves and submit to instruction and discipline from those higher than ourselves so that we do not bring reproach to Your name while we await the glorious return of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in whose name we have prayed. Amen.
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