Thursday, November 14, 2013

Discipline is our fault - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"Further, His righteousness cried, 'If ye come straight to me, I also will come straight to you but if ye walk crooked, I also will walk crooked, saith the Lord of hosts;' meaning by the crooked ways the chastisements of sinners.... Thus the Lord’s reproof is most beneficial. David also says of them, 'A perverse and provoking race; a race which set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful with God: they kept not the covenant of God, and would not walk in His law.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
God disciplines us, not because He is a sadist or has nothing better to do, but because the needs of our life demand it. God disciplines us because our lives need it to secure for us participation in the right way. If our lives were "straight" then there would be no need for discipline in our lives, but because our lives are "crooked," we need His discipline so that we might enjoy life and find it in abundance.
"Such are the causes of provocation for which the Judge comes to inflict punishment on those that would not choose a life of goodness. Wherefore also afterwards He assailed them more roughly; in order, if possible, to drag them back from their impetuous rush towards death. He therefore tells by David the most manifest cause of the threatening: 'They believed not in His wonderful works. When He slew them, they sought after Him, and turned and inquired early after God; and remembered that God was their Helper, and God the Most High their Redeemer.' Thus He knew that they turned for fear, while they despised His love: for, for the most part, that goodness which is always mild is despised; but He who admonishes by the loving fear of righteousness is reverenced." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
In reading the Old Testament, some see only a God who is mean, punitive, and harsh. However, what we should see is a people who are "stiff-necked" and rebellious, and a loving God who would do anything necessary to turn them back to Himself. How repeatedly did God rebuke His people in order to restore them only to have them again rebel and wander far from Him. However, His love for them never failed and, in His slowness to anger, He continually called them back to Himself with gentle and harsh discipline as necessary.
"There is a twofold species of fear, the one of which is accompanied with reverence, such as citizens show towards good rulers, and we towards God, as also right-minded children towards their fathers... The other species of fear is accompanied with hatred, which slaves feel towards hard masters, and the Hebrews felt, who made God a master, not a father. And as far as piety is concerned, that which is voluntary and spontaneous differs much, nay entirely, from what is forced." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
The fear that God seeks to instill in us is different from that fear that resulted from the law. One is out of love and the other out of hatred; hatred that we are ruled over and hatred for the result of defying the one who rules over us. This is true even in the natural. For example, I do not excessively exceed the speed limit because I fear a speeding ticket. I do this not out of a loving fear or because I believe the law is justified, but out of a fear that submits because I have too. They have the power to make the laws and I must submit to them whether or not I want to. Some obey God out of a loving fear while others because they have too, hating the one who is their master because He is God. All fear is not bad, but fear without love gives no life.
"Wherefore David—that is, the Spirit by him—embracing them both, sings of God Himself, 'Justice and judgment are the preparation of His throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.' He declares that it belongs to the same power both to judge and to do good. For there is power over both together, and judgment separates that which is just from its opposite. And He who is truly God is just and good; who is Himself all, and all is He; for He is God, the only God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
God is just and God is good. In fact, God cannot be one without the other. How can God be good without being just and how can He be just without being good?
"For as the mirror is not evil to an ugly man because it shows him what like he is; and as the physician is not evil to the sick man because he tells him of his fever,—for the physician is not the cause of the fever, but only points out the fever;—so neither is He, that reproves, ill-disposed towards him who is diseased in soul. For He does not put the transgressions on him, but only shows the sins which are there; in order to turn him away from similar practices. So God is good on His own account, and just also on ours, and He is just because He is good... This mutual and reciprocal knowledge is the symbol of primeval justice. Then justice came down to men both in the letter and in the body, in the Word and in the law, constraining humanity to saving repentance; for it was good. But do you not obey God? Then blame yourself, who drag to yourself the judge." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
If we find ourselves under discipline, let us not blame God or count God as evil for showing and reproving us of our sin. The sin is ours and our judgment and discipline rightly earned. We are the ones at fault, we are the ones who are less than good. In times like these, let us never forget the words of King Solomon, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12 NKJV)

David Robison

No comments:

Post a Comment