Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Many Christian parents take this passage as a license to spank their children, and while I am not opposed to this method of correction (just ask our four kids), this is not the primary meaning I would like to focus on today.
In some passages where you find “the rod” of discipline, it is always metaphorical. Lamentations 3:1 says, “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.” God’s wrath, of course, is both measured and justified. It is based on God’s perfect moral standards which are applied to every person all the time. For those outside of Christ, the ultimate punishment is eternal damnation in hell. But, for those of us who are in Christ, that price has been paid by our Savior…yet, loving Godly discipline remains.
When I was disciplined (spanked) by my father as a young boy, he would always ask me, “Why did I do that?” I would offer up several answers until I was willing to offer up the one he was looking for, but that I found the hardest to understand. “Because you love me?” I would ask, confusingly. “Yes,” my dad would answer, softly, “because I love you and want what’s best for you.” It was a great truth.
When we refuse to hold our children to God’s standards, we are not being nice or easy-going…we are being unloving. The same is true when God disciplines us…when He applies “the rod” of correction to our lives. God chastises those He loves (Pr. 3:12; Heb. 12:6) because of His righteous decrees, of course, but also because He loves us and wants the best for our lives! I seem to recall hearing that same line somewhere.
So, if you are a parent, be sure that when you apply the rod of discipline – in one way or another – that you are doing it out of love for God and love for your child. Additionally, when God is applying the rod to you, you can rest assured He is doing it out of love, too.