When I was a child, if I did something wrong, or was set up by my older sister, my dad would spank me with a brown, leather belt.
As I got a little older, if I did something wrong, or was set up by my older sister, my dad would spank me with a wood cutting board he made into a paddle.
As I became a pre-teen and teenager, my dad began assigning me Bible verses to write, or he’d make me look up every. single. Bible. verse. pertaining to my fault (I.E. If I was caught lying, I was given his Thompson Chain Reference Bible and was required to write every verse connected with honesty, truth, and etc; essentially any verse the was the opposite behavior of lying).
On many occasions I have also given my children Bible verses to write. I believe as we insert scripture, it helps reveal the wrong in our hearts and shows us where to correct course and align our hearts and life with the heart and life God calls us to live.
I utilized this same “discipline” in the substance abuse program I used to manage. I initiated a Bible verse writing program for policy infractions. The men hated it, but most of the men who were successful in the program, and had to write Bible verses along the way, would eventually thank me for the writing assignments. The theory was to put in the truth (the good) to push out the bad (that which was causing the infractions).
Tristan got in trouble last night, so I assigned him a Bible verse writing assignment. I initially told him he had to write Romans 13:1-3, 100x’s, but after realizing how long that passage is for him, I changed it to 30x’s. Before making any changes, I allowed him to write 10 verses and then asked him what the verse said and what it meant. He was able to clearly communicate it to me (which was part of my main goal). Between homework and his diligent writing, it took him until 9 p.m. to write 12 verses (it’s VERY long).
At some point during the night I had a thought that I wanted to teach him the gospel through this situation. Yes, he needs to obey his teachers, his parents, and any other adults that have authority over him. He needs to learn that discipline, especially as an impressionable young man, but at his impressionable age he also needs to learn the gospel. God is not pleased with us just because we follow the rules; God does not accept us because we follow all of the rules. Forgiveness and salvation are not a result of our following all of the rules. It’s solely based on our faith in Jesus and what he did for us.
So, how could I teach him the gospel?
Take his punishment for him.
Tristan sinned in his behavior and earned the right to be disciplined. I assigned the penalty for his sin and then I paid the penalty I assigned to him, for him.
I wrote Tristan’s Bible verse assignment for him. I didn’t want to. It was painful. I wanted to stop and just say I forgive the debt, but that wasn’t the full picture of the gospel. Yes, God could have just said our sin debts were forgiven and he could have wiped them all clean, but he didn’t do that. God established specific requirements that had to be fulfilled in order for our sins to be forgiven. When we couldn’t fulfill God’s requirements for forgiveness, he sent his Son, Jesus to pay our penalty on our behalf.
God assigned the penalty for our sin and then God paid that penalty for us.
Jesus suffered and he sacrificed so we could be forgiven.
Here’s an interesting lesson I learned: As painful as it was for me to write his sentences for him to fulfill my own requirements, there was an excitement within me to be able to give this gift to him. I want Tristan to experience a fresh perspective of the gospel, but I think in the process I personally gained a fresh perspective of God, as my Father. If I was excited to give this gift to my son, how excited is God to give us his gift of salvation? His gift of forgiveness? His gift of mercy and grace? It cost him greatly, but he does not offer this gift to us begrudgingly; he gives it freely, lovingly, and with joy.
As Christians, God doesn’t want us begrudgingly living for or serving him. He wants us to live for him as a response to his love and grace, because we want to, not because we have to. My hope is that my children won’t just obey because they fear having to write Bible verses, or fear detention at school, or some other form of discipline. Instead, I hope they will live an honorable, productive, God-honoring life in response to God’s love and in response to their parent’s love; because they want to, not because they have to.
Join the Conversation: As Christian parents, what are ways you’ve been able to teach or demonstrate the gospel to your children through your discipline processes or in general?