“For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”
Have you heard the phrase, perhaps from a parental figure, “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you” and you thought, “yeah, sure?” Or, “I’m doing this because I love you.”
It’s unlikely any of us reading this have experienced an actual scourging (The Oxford describes the instrument as “a whip used as an instrument of punishment,” and the act as “whip (someone) as a punishment.” The root is from Latin, “to whip thoroughly.” Paul is quoting here from Proverbs 3:12: “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”
Setting aside physical discipline by earthly fathers, what is this “scourging” that we are promised to receive from our heavenly Father?
A recruit in the armed forces goes through something called “boot camp.” It’s a planned series of exercises and training routines, designed to make an effective soldier out of someone who is not. The Navy recently went against the trend in our culture when they increased the level of difficulty in their training base at Great Lakes, Illinois, as noted in the Navy Times.
“The key now is to hike a recruit’s ‘resiliency’ — learning to take a hit and then get back into the fight without shutting down…that’s a lesson that works in battle or in life,” says Capt. Erik Thors, Recruit Training Command’s skipper.
“‘We do not want sailors to buckle,’ he said. ‘When the ship takes a missile and shrapnel flies or maybe their shipmate doesn’t make it and they find themselves in a compartment that’s flooding. Are they clutch enough to make a decision on their own and be the one to close the hatch? And sailors know what that means — the difficult decision to save the ship, to keep fighting the ship.’”
Often new Christians (or those being encouraged to accept Christ) are led to believe that they now will be on a bed of roses, that they will have no more trials or tribulations. We are being disingenuous to present the Christian life as free from troubles. From the eternal perspective, the Christian is immediately a citizen of Heaven with all the vast eternal benefits secured by the sprinkled blood of Christ. But whether we are a new Christian or seasoned by decades of following Christ, we are all still together in boot camp. Our loving Father will not leave us in a place of immaturity in our faith, and orders our circumstances and situations, however unpleasant, to direct us into lives pleasing to Him and fit for eternity.
Many of us have years of secular thinking and wrong behavior to overcome – through discipline. And even for those of us raised in a Christian environment, we are constantly assailed by things that draw us away – the “encumbrances and sins which so easily entangle us.”
The Hebrews being addressed here were experiencing persecution; Charles Swindoll points out, “The message of the superiority of Jesus would have been particularly important to Jewish Christians in Rome, who were struggling under Nero’s persecution and were considering moving back toward the Mosaic Law… [it] showed these Jewish Christian believers that, though they were faced with suffering, they were indeed following a better way . . . and they should persevere.”
God loves us too much to let us stay the way we are… we are called to be warriors in the Faith, and He is training us to fulfill our calling.