instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, August 23, 2010

You can't spell "disciple" without "discipline"

Yesterday we heard the following teaching from the Letter to the Hebrews:
Endure your trials as discipline; God treats you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?*
This is a well-attested doctrine. The lives of saints are filled with trials, both physical and spiritual. Hence the joke that was old in the Fourteenth Century: When you look at how God treats His friends it's no wonder He has so few of them. (And even if the world and the devil leave someone alone, in this life the flesh never does surrender its fight against the spirit.)

Still, there's a difference between "attested" and "accepted." The idea that God disciplines His children is one that a lot of people resist. It seems out of character for a loving and merciful God, a God who desires not the death of the sinner.

The point, of course, is that in order for the sinner to avoid death, he must become holy, and becoming holy is hard work. If following God's commandments didn't involve opposition from sinners, then there'd be no reason for anyone -- including you and God -- to think you were following God's commandments rather than your own druthers. You can't serve two masters; without God's discipline, you wouldn't be able to choose Him as your master.

This is even true of God's only begotten Son, Who could not become incarnate in a fallen world without having to choose between God's commandments and the druthers of His own created will. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; we might say He knew with His human intellect that He was obedient in the only way a human intellect can know it: by actively being obedient.

The Letter to the Hebrews teaches us, contrary to the wisdom of the world, to be enheartened by the thought that Jesus, Whom we acclaim the leader and perfecter of faith, struggled against sin to the point of shedding blood. We take heart, not only for the sake of the joy that lies before us, but even from our trials themselves, knowing by faith that they are signs of God's love for His children.

* The next verse, omitted from the Lectionary, answers that question.