5 Parenting Principles:
First, (1) natural consequences, the cause and effect circumstances that result from people making poor choices.
Second, (2) authoritative consequences, when discipline must be issued by an authority figure in response to rebellion and disobedience.
The Pokémon Analogy
To give an example in current culture, let’s use the wide-spread use of the game, Pokémon Go.
A (1) natural consequence would be, getting hit by a bus while playing Pokémon Go in the middle of the street. (A choice that has many unique consequences of it’s own.)
An (2) authoritative consequence would be when your employer fires you because of you’ve been taking extended lunch breaks to catch Pokémons. (By the way, none of the Pokémons that you captured will be able to pay your rent or buy this month’s groceries.)
Alright, let’s get serious and look at some Biblical examples.
1. Look For Natural Consequences In Scripture
There’s no shortage of natural consequences in the Bible, but particularly in the Old Testament. So many times, God would outline the best plan for the People of Israel to live in safety and happiness, but instead they would choose their own path.
In 1 Samuel 8, we have a pivotal Old Testament moment. The People of Israel are about to make a terrible choice, which will end in years of natural consequences. God is using the prophet Samuel to guide the people. Let’s see if they listen.
“4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ 6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.’” (1 Sam. 8:4-9)
The People of Israel have the Creator of the Universe as their Heavenly Father and King. But nope, they saw what the next-door neighbours have and they want one too! Can’t you just hear it now: “Daddy, all the other nations have a king, we want a king too! “
Poor Samuel’s like the older brother, trying to talk some sense into his younger siblings. He can see how bad this situation’s going to go. “Dad, this is not good. You’re not really going to let them go through with this king thing are you?’“
God’s answers like a good parent should: “Samuel, if your siblings want to take this path, it’s not about you; it’s between them and me.“
Spoiler Alert: The People of Israel didn’t listen to Samuel’s warning, which led to problems. But God loved them and never abandoned them.
2. Use Natural Consequences Wherever Possible
Natural consequences occur in our relationship with God all the time. Our Heavenly Father warns us of the outcome of a poor choice, but gives us space to make that choice. Parents can learn from this relationship.
As parents we easily warn our children, but then we need to fight the temptation to protect them from every poor choice. If they’re not in any real danger, we need let them choose their own path.
If our child is flying a kite near trees, we can warn them to move to an open space. But if they don’t listen, we have to let that kite fly into a tree. When it gets stuck, they’ll be upset, but we have an opportunity to teach our child what natural consequences are all about.
3. Understand Our Father’s Old Covenant Authority
Authoritative Consequences are situations where God issued punishment and discipline for rebellion and disobedience. Let’s look at a couple Biblical examples.
Moses was called to lead the People of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. Leading a couple of million people must have been a frustrating ordeal to say the least.
At one point, the people had run out of water. They were grumbling and complaining, even stating that they were better off in Egypt! Moses goes to the Lord for help. The Lord gives him a miracle-plan: Call the people together, speak to the rock, and fresh spring water will come pouring out. The Lord will provide.
In Numbers 20, we read about the moment when Moses’ frustration gets the better of him, and he lashes out in anger.
“…Moses said to them, ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff…” (Num. 20:10-11)
In God’s eyes, this was unacceptable behaviour for Moses.
“…the Lord said…‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’” (Num. 20:12)
Because Moses’ behaviour was unacceptable to God, disciplinary action was issued. Moses would not enter the Promised Land. Considering Moses had given his life’s purpose to see this fulfilled, I’m sure this consequence would have stung a bit.
4. Accept Our Father’s New Covenant Authority
In 1 Corinthians 11, we read about Christians not treating communion with reverence and discernment. The church was divided, quarreling over social class, being gluttonous, and getting drunk.
Communion had lost all remembrance of Christ’s humility and sacrifice. The church was in rebellion and disobedience, and their behaviour was unacceptable.
“29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and ill, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:29-32)
If this is your first time in this passage, this can be hard to swallow. But this is how serious God is about Christ’s sacrifice and our remembrance of that sacrifice. The Christians of Corinth were in rebellion against God by corrupting Communion and acting immorally.
God’s disciplinary action is to withhold healing from the church, allowing illness and death.
5. Show Love Through Consequences
Theologically, I believe discipline looks very different under the New Covenant then it did under the Law, in the Old Testament. That being said, I still believe God disciplines us as His children.
Passages like Hebrews 12 lead me to this conclusion:
“5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’” (Heb. 12:5-6)
As parents, I don’t believe we should enjoy giving authoritative consequences; because I don’t believe God enjoys it.
However, God shows His love to us by taking disciplinary action when we rebel and disobey. In turn, a parent can show their love to a child by taking disciplinary action when that child rebels and disobeys.
I believe that Scripture teaches us that one of the greatest ways we can show Biblical love to our children is by providing consistent discipline when they choose rebellion and disobedience.