Discipline and Forgiveness

Discipline and forgiveness are treated like mortal enemies by some. Confused Christians view them as mutually exclusive even in the Bible, and often in their personal lives too. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps the biggest question the Christian has with discipline is this — if I am taught to forgive by God, then should I also forgo discipline? This question expands to any arena of discipline, not just the home or spanking. It is asked about how to deal with an employee at work, how to deal with a criminal offender, or how to deal with bad behavior from children. The Christian asks — should I practice forgiveness, and just not punish the behavior?

In the broad sense, we may forgive a person their wrong — not holding it against them– but at the same time be obligated to use discipline to correct and restore them. Our responsibility to our children is to discipline them, and that discipline does not come with a lack of forgiveness, but alongside forgiveness. Their record will be made clean, but along with a punishment which helps correct them. Likewise, an employer has a responsibility for the good of his business to discipline employees who harm the business or the workplace. Yet there is no law that says if an employee is punished he may not be forgiven as well. Where does logic demand that?

We see forgiveness and punishment come together many times in the Bible. In the grandest way, we see that the believer in Christ is assured forgiveness, and will be forgiven if he confesses his sins, yet we also see in unambiguous language that God still punishes the believer. He chastises the Christian as a father chastises a child. We see that David, a great biblical saint, is forgiven by God for his adultery and murder, yet also receives divine justice side by side with being restored. Therefore, there’s no way to hold these two practices as mutually exclusive. The Bible certainly does not.

A justice system is not about personal forgiveness of debts. It is about delivering a due punishment. The punishment is due because of the nature of the offense, and the punishment is due also as a kind of payment to the ones offended. There are even ways in which punishment plays a role in restoring the person, such as those who pay restitution, or who are given community service. It is on top of that a deterrent into the future, and a warning to otherwise law-abiding citizens not to commit crime. It does all things things, but it does not rule out personal forgiveness. The victim of a crime may forgive the one who violated him, yet still recognize that the criminal needs to receive justice. It is for the good of all society.

Yet what about the kind of forgiveness that erases our infraction, and removes punishment entirely. That’s the kind the perpetrator is most hoping for. We see this in the cross, which atones for our past sins. We see this in God’s passing over many of our smaller sins without obvious consequence or serious warning. We do the same thing ourselves, often saving real punishment for the serious and harmful infractions, and overlooking passing mistakes. Aren’t there times to forgive in the sense of erasing any debt owed?

Clearly, yes there are. We all must do this. In the sense of small wrongs and errors, we tend to view them with an umbrella of charity, and not jump on every one of them. We might also see that our wife was really working hard on her virtue, but was going through a difficult time, and made one serious transgression. We may choose to wipe that debt clean without any punishment. We may do it for other reasons as well. There may be a discipline system in place to correct her, but the head of that system can override it if he wills.
For spanking husbands, the question might be if completely erasing an infraction is going to get in the way of being consistent with discipline. Will she then think she can do whatever she desires? Will she not take our words seriously anymore?

I don’t think so. Correction should be regular and consistent, true, but choosing to dismiss a wrong by being charitable in how you view it, is a special case. It is not the regular working of things. She should know this as well. It won’t turn her into a rebel overnight. If anything, that kind of erasing of debt ought to make her want to be godly on a deep and strong level. It should make her want to submit herself to you, through seeing your forgiveness of her, without strings attached. She will see your graciousness and goodness all the more and want to serve you.

I can remember a teacher in school who chose to forgive something bad I had done, which normally deserved punishment. Since it was Christmas time, he wanted to do it just to be kind. That experience did not give me the impression that I could get away with whatever I wanted. It made me gracious I avoided punishment, and like a heavy weight was lifted, and I still feared punishment for future wrongs. It SHOULD have given me thought as to the reason he did it, since it was Christmas, but being hardened and unbelieving I did not give Christ a second thought. Nor did I desire to do more wrong than I already had, just because I didn’t get punished. It never crossed my mind. Similarly I do not think occasionally wiping the record clean, just to be kind, will harm a husband’s leadership of his wife. It is not weakness, but charity and love. She can learn much from it.


8 responses to “Discipline and Forgiveness”

  1. […] the easiest to refute, is the claim that spanking your wife is just not loving. How could you spank someone you love? If you spank, you must not love? It is not surprising to hear this from a church culture that […]

  2. My husband will charitably give me a break on something I need Guidance for if it was something that was truly a mistake or maybe a miscommunication between us. I’m extremely grateful for the reprieve because none of us is perfect and I love that he recognizes that in me.

  3. […] is an essential to his discipline system, he is free to absolve her as well. He can choose to show mercy, as is often shown to us, in order for her to learn a different kind of lesson. Mercy cannot be […]

  4. […] to be corrected would not do. Do we not confess our sins to our God? Surely, it makes sense to admit a wrong to our earthly authority as well, as a woman does to her husband. Once a woman can overcome any […]

  5. Wondering Avatar

    I didn’t see this article before. I have to say, “yes!” I agree with this SO much. This is exactly how I feel and was trying to say on the other post I commented on. Thank you for all you do to help people!

    1. You’re welcome. I’m very glad to be able to help people through my writing.

  6. Aronhusband,

    I was recently in a courtship with an incredible, godly man who brought up the idea of domestic discipline, should we be married in the future. It was something I understood and even longed for. I couldn’t believe he brought it up!

    Then his heart changed toward it. He believes God is showing him that domestic discipline (specifically, spanking as punishment and possibly punishment in general) is wrong for him, and not something he should practice in any future marriage.

    We took a step back, agreeing to remain friends until God could deal with his heart. We are keeping the door open to a future together, if God wills.

    However, should we be married one day, I’ll need to honor the conviction God has laid upon his heart. It will not change my deep conviction and dedication toward wifely obedience, submission, respect, and service. Nor, do I suspect, will it change his dedication toward authority or leadership in the home. I’m not sure if he would be open to non-physical forms of correction, but I do honestly, truly believe that verbal corrections, writing lines, memorizing scripture, and so forth would be just as meaningful to my heart. I have always been a naturally and deeply submissive woman. My heart is tender toward the Lord.

    My question to you is this: Have you ever heard of an instance where a godly man who believed in spanking as a tool had a 180-degree change of heart? One which God laid on his heart? It seems such a huge change. If this is truly a conviction against domestic discipline and/or punishment in general for his life, would it be wrong to ask God for understanding? Or for God to change his heart— so that at least a thrashing for something very serious could be left on the table?

    Should you have a moment to see, ponder, and respond to my question, I would be truly thankful.

    God bless you and your wife,


    1. Hello Josie, Thank you for visiting my website, and for sharing your experience. I hope his changing views on spanking do not hinder your possible future, since that form of discipline is not an essential for a good marriage. It is essential that he is in charge, and that you submit to him, and it’s possible he will find use of other kinds of discipline. He may change his mind with time also, as he sees practical applications of it.

      I don’t know of any men who changed their views so decidedly. It is possible he thought it did not fit with his personality, or was worried about potential risks involved. Before marriage, it is all very much hypothetical, and not rooted in real world needs. I believe any married man would see the need for spanking at times, and appreciate how simple, effective, and quick it is, compared to other methods.

      Once you get married, I know you will do your best to submit, whether your husband uses it or not. Learn from other forms of correction, and allow him to shape you easily. I appreciate your commitment to being a godly submissive wife.

      Bless you.

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