Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

Spare the Rod???

Water2          As He inspired the scriptures God often used the imagery of the shepherd and the shepherd’s rod or staff.  Being the original multi-tasker He has several purposes in mind as we consider how the shepherd uses his staff and how God intends us to understand His role in relating to each of us. The staff was used particularly in Old Testament history as a symbol of authority. As God’s representative Moses demonstrated God’s power before the Pharaoh, struck the rock in the wilderness to produce water for two million people and caused Israel to succeed in battle when he held the staff above his head. The staff was his symbol of authority. Likewise the shepherd is master over the flock and performs many functions with his staff as he cares for the sheep.

          First, let us consider the matter of discipline. Discipline is not a very inviting word. It has taken on more of a negative connotation in our culture today than it probably deserves. It is often more associated with punishment than its more accurate definition of instruction or guidance for a code of conduct or behavior. As the shepherd pokes and prods the sheep they acquire the learned behavior necessary for living in the flock or community of sheep. As parents it becomes necessary for us to supply the loving discipline in order for our children to acquire the desired behavioral traits that benefit life in community. While the shepherd uses the tangible and visible staff or rod, God uses circumstances to get our attention. Likewise we must find ways to gain the attention of our children in a loving but guiding manner. This writing is not meant to discuss the pros and cons of corporal punishment, which must be an individual decision. Often we hear the phrase, “spare the rod and spoil the child”. I believe that the rod represents far more than is often brought to mind by that phrase. As we explore the many purposes of the shepherd’s rod perhaps we may discover the many ways of spoiling a child. Disciplines are generally designed to produce a positive result. We can easily see in the life of any successful superstar that discipline allowed them to excel in their particular field. Tiger Woods is perhaps the greatest golfer of all time but we never would have heard of him without the discipline to practice golf consistently over a long period of time. Disciplines allow us to hone our abilities for living the life God intended. It is the word from which we get disciple.

          Protection is another function of the shepherd’s staff. He defends the sheep against predators by using his rod. In the same manner God protects us by means of His direction in our lives. We may not be aware of all His efforts on our behalf and it becomes all important for us to seek Him and His will for us as He knows what is best for us and never intends us harm. As we model God’s love for us in raising our children, it is important for us to make wise decisions in order to protect them from all possible harm. Acts of discipline and protection maybe painful at times but necessary guidance for proper direction.

          Separation of the sheep in the flock was also accomplished by the staff.  God calls for separation for His followers. To be considered Holy, a believer must be set apart or separate. This simply means that we are available for use by Him for His purpose.  This does not mean that we are separatists. The scriptures tell us that we are to be “in the world, not of the world”. We are called to be recognizably different. We hear so much today in regards to peer pressure among young people. If we raise our children according to God’s plan, peer pressure will not have it’s ugly result. If a young person has a good sense of who they are and what they believe then their choices will be much easier. Hopefully their actions will impact others around them and peer pressure will be reversed. We need to teach them to be separate in their thinking, deciding their values in advance of their decision making opportunities.

          Gathering is yet another use. The shepherd gathers the flock by using his staff. He gathers them for feeding, protection and providing rest. The imagery continues as God also desires to gather us in community for the purposes of feeding, guiding and causing us to rest. Perhaps the most violated of all God’s principles is the principle of rest. Many believers today do not even comprehend God’s concept of rest. His rest allows for a time of reflection and meditation on His Word, it allows us to receive direction, strength and wisdom from Him. This is difficult if not impossible to pass on to our children if we haven’t mastered this discipline ourselves. This is one area that needs nurturing from the time children are small. It can be quite a task to convert a teenager to the discipline of resting. Most of them cannot slow down for more than a minute or two without exploding.

          Comfort may be the most interesting of all uses of the shepherd’s staff. All of the above items and more are necessary for the sheep to be comforted by the shepherd. These are all items of provision for the flock’s well being. Psalm 23 states, “…Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…” .  By a touch from the shepherd the sheep know his presence. While it might seem contradictory, an act of discipline can be an act of comfort. We all need boundaries especially our children. They are comforted by the knowledge that someone else exercises concern and caring over their well being. Someone else provides for them and instills values and stability to face the challenges of life. In the same way God wants to do the same for each of us. We often criticize our children for not wanting to listen but in reality it may be that we are the ones who are most disobedient. Perhaps this is largely due to the fact that many Christians are unsure of how to listen to God. He speaks but doesn’t yell. We need the discipline of rest and intentional deliberation of His Word. We need to know His presence, His prodding and poking as He gently guides with His staff.

          While this doesn’t exhaust all the uses of the rod, it is easy to see that using the rod too sparingly may easily spoil the child. A lack of discipline doesn’t send a message of comfort and love; it creates a void, a void of boundaries, a void of reassurance and a void of the presence of another who really cares. This is the way God designed the necessities of life, He modeled it through the shepherd. “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and they know me. (John 10:14)