Discipline and Confession of Sin

Since discipline is one way in which a husband may manage his wife’s bad behavior, it can not be wholly separated from the spiritual life. Nothing in the home can be. Discipline — whether spanking or non-physical — is heavily practical in nature, since it corrects bad attitudes and behavior, and keeps them from harming the home. Yet it is also  part of their growth in marriage, and growth of the wife being disciplined, in her spiritual life as well. It often, but not always, involves confronting a sin. For this reason, a husband correcting his wife needs to instruct her in when her infraction calls for confession of sin before God.

In the case of behavior which is clearly sinful, he must alert her that she needs to confess in private to God, and ask forgiveness. It may be convenient to do this before the discipline session, but other times could work also. Mere behavioral change is not the goal, but real awareness of sin, and turning to God to be forgiven and repent. This is how we grow. Behavioral change comes along with that, but we must be cleansed by God more primarily. In one recent instance when I had to call my wife to confess of her sin along with being spanked, she assured me she understood that her actions were sinful and why. She had already confessed and cleansed her conscience. If you are regularly leading your wife spiritually, I believe you will see similar results — she will know to do it herself, and if she hasn’t already, will understand easily why you call her to do so.

Some infractions may obviously be sins, such as lying, or using God’s name in vain, or drunkenness. I very rarely have to correct my wife for that behavior, but I know in some homes it is more common. Similarly, direct disobedience is sinful, as is gossip, violence, and other infractions beyond breaking a minor regulation. These are things she must also approach God about on her own, in repentance. She should commit herself before God in leaving this behind and ask His help in overcoming sin. A husband should instruct her in doing this, although I would hope she knows on her own to confess before God.

Other behavior is not obviously sin on any fundamental level. For example, it takes introspection and discernment to see where strong words might amount to righteous indignation, or where they might amount to sinful anger. It takes examination to see where legitimate leisure time becomes laziness instead. Where does eating end and gluttony begin? Sometimes, we don’t always know the answer clearly. Moreover, there are certain mistakes which amount to infractions at home, but are not intentional sins at all, even if they are harmful. This might be failing in one of her responsibilities. The act was not sinful in itself, but she was careless enough to do it, and it still needs to be punished. Not everything which is harmful is sin in and of itself.

In arenas like those, a husband does not have the need to instruct his wife to confess to God alongside receiving discipline. If he thinks it is a close call, he may just ask his wife to use discernment about her motives, and to confess to God if she sees inside that her behavior was rooted in sinful motives. If not, she does not need to. There really are unclear areas. When I personally encounter them in myself, I tend to use my regular confession time to also confess certain general kinds of behavior, since I was not sure an individual act or attitude was sin. They might have been, they might not have been.

The large majority of a husband’s spiritual leadership is with other practices; he leads his wife in prayer and Bible study at home. He encourages her in godly behavior. He praises her when she does well as a godly women. Yet a portion of spiritual leadership is within the discipline system, whether he uses corporal punishment or not. The system helps her to see her wrong, and also to see more clearly the good. It helps her in seeing just how harmful bad behavior can be, and how concerned her man is for her growth in virtue. It helps her to know that her righteousness is important and essential for the home. Her man helps her turn away from sin in her life, when her infraction amounts to sin.

A man’s discipline of his wife is a small taste of God’s. That’s why discipline even pictures both God’s justice, and His mercy for us, since it leaves her with a temporary humbling and some pain, but completely avoids the much harder consequences of her error, and shields her from them. There is often mercy within justice. It may not be easy for her to think she is receiving mercy when she is bent over feeling the strap, but the spanking is very mild compared to what bad behavior otherwise leads to, especially in the long run. I gave my wife a tremendous paddling when she left our children in danger, but she knows how brief and minor that pain is compared to what could have happened from her act, one which could have caused injury or death. If I discipline her for disrespect toward me, I remind her what being disrespectful or arguing can do to a marriage in the long run, with the breakdown of order, anger, or bitterness. We can never allow that to happen. The spanking ends up as a brief picture of the real harm the act could do. It is merciful by comparison.

A man should treat his responsibility to lead his wife spiritually and morally as an obligation. Even those who take spiritual leadership seriously on a daily basis, should not dismiss the importance of her spiritual growth in the discipline process. Confronting an ordinary infraction seems mostly practical in nature, but he cannot remain silent in confronting sin. This calls for his instruction of his wife, and his assurance that she practices confession right alongside being disciplined. It is his job to help protect her from it. He needs to make sure she is repentant in her heart, and that she fully calls on God to protect her from that temptation and to strengthen her. He then provides her a cleansing punishment, which, like forgiveness, leaves her soul at peace.


3 responses to “Discipline and Confession of Sin”

  1. Whatever has happened to church discipline? I have seen very little of it. Even when such discipline is taken, all too many church members are tempted to second-guess the church and to privately continue to fellowship with the one under discipline. This is a most serious matter, for if I understand the Scriptures correctly, to do so is to become a partner with that person in his or her sin.

    1. Hello, Thanks for your comment. Church discipline is a somewhat different subject than this online manual focuses on, but naturally, it is related. It is truly necessary to practice Church discipline, because it is taught in Scripture, and it protects the brethren from sin becoming normal, and spreading among them. Churches need to call those who live in sin to repent. If they will not repent, they need to be cut of from the congregation. Naturally, all Church members should participate in separating from that person, and should have not ordinary fellowship with that person.

      Sadly, not only do the brethren often ignore this command, but pastors often do too. In my own life, I practice separation, and do not fellowship with a brother living in sin: we do not have them to our house, and do not go to theirs. There may be necessities in life that require interacting with that person, but beyond those necessities we do not. The holiness of Christians will always include being separated from sin and the world.

  2. […] to give herself fully, in a way a wife who simply waits 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 […]

Leave a Reply