Saturday, November 09, 2013

The loving discipline of children - 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.
"With all His power, therefore, the Instructor of humanity, the Divine Word, using all the resources of wisdom, devotes Himself to the saving of the children, admonishing, upbraiding, blaming, chiding, reproving, threatening, healing, promising, favouring; and as it were, by many reins, curbing the irrational impulses of humanity. To speak briefly, therefore, the Lord acts towards us as we do towards our children." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
God uses a myriad of weapons to save His children, which includes all of us who have become His. Some weapons are gentle and mild while some are hard and harsh, yet all are used for the same purpose: salvation. We should not be surprised or shocked at this for we do the same for our children. We use various methods to teach our children the right way to live and to correct them when they are wrong and straying. Though we love them, yet we are willing to wound them, if necessary, that they may escape the evil way and return to the way of life.
"For those who speak with a man merely to please him, have little love for him, seeing they do not pain him; while those that speak for his good, though they inflict pain for the time, do him good for ever after. It is not immediate pleasure, but future enjoyment, that the Lord has in view." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
King Solomon said, "He who withholds his rod hates his son,but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." (Proverbs 13:24) and the writer of Hebrews says, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:11) If we truly love someone, then we should be willing to allow them to experience unpleasantness, even from our own hands, that it might lead to their life and freedom from sin. Love does not sit by, watching someone proceed down the path of destruction, afraid to discipline and to wound, all the while allowing the condemned to proceed unhindered along their pathway to death. Love reaches out and uses whatever resources are available to call such a one back to repentance and back to life. This is the kind of love the Father has for us.

Of these resources, Clement enumerates many of them. Here are the first three.
"Admonition, then, is the censure of loving care, and produces understanding. Such is the Instructor in His admonitions, as when He says in the Gospel, 'How often would I have gathered thy children, as a bird gathers her young ones under her wings, and ye would not!'... For it is a very great proof of His love, that, though knowing well the shamelessness of the people that had kicked and bounded away, He notwithstanding exhorts them to repentance... Here His loving care, having shown their sin, shows salvation side by side." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Admonition is an expression of our love and care for someone with the hopes that they will understand the path they are on, thus prompting them to change.
"Upbraiding is censure on account of what is base, conciliating to what is noble. This is shown by Jeremiah: 'They were female-mad horses; each one neighed after his neighbour’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?' He everywhere interweaves fear, because 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of sense.'... He shows their offence to be clearer, by declaring that they understood, and thus sinned wilfully. Understanding is the eye of the soul; wherefore also Israel means, 'he that sees God'—that is, he that understands God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Upbraiding is the identifying of what is base in someone's life. Showing a contract between what is profane and what is noble, that one may avoid the one and adopt the other.
"Complaint is censure of those who are regarded as despising or neglecting. He employs this form when He says by Esaias: 'Hear, O heaven; and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have begotten and brought up children, but they have disregarded Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel hath not known Me.' For how shall we not regard it fearful, if he that knows God, shall not recognise the Lord; but while the ox and the ass, stupid and foolish animals, will know him who feeds them, Israel is found to be more irrational than these?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 9)
Complaint is when we accuse others of falling short in their duty towards is. We complain when someone fails to do what we expect or what we have asked. The same with God who uses complaints when we neglect or fail to remember God through out our busy daily lives.

Next time we will look at more corrective resources at ours and God's disposal.

David Robison

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