Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Love and Fear" Part 5

     God's chastening administers hurt and loss to His trusting sons and daughters in Christ as needed, and according to His abounding love for us.
     "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).
    The scourge, or whip, of ancient times inflicted pain and removed flesh.  In the hands of civil authorities, the scourge primarily administered punitive measures for the purpose of justice and the reordering of behavior by fear.  Conversely, the loving parent wielded the whip to change behavior, but according to love and fear.  As we have referenced, the child knows deep within that His parents love him when they are willing not only to tenderly caress, but also to painfully chasten.  The scourge effected this disciplinary discomfort and security-fostering assurance of parental love. 
    The writer of Hebrews declares that God "scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."  This raises the question, How does He scourge, or whip, us?   In what manner does He lovingly administer pain and the loss of flesh since we do not physically see or feel the whip?   
     The writers of the New Testament did not spend a great deal of time answering this question for us.  However, the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians does provide some light.
     "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (I Corinthians 11:28-32).
    The Corinthians disrespected the ordinance of the Lord's supper, transforming it from a reverent remembrance of Christ's death into a gluttonous and drunken display of selfishness (I Corinthians 11:20-22).  Paul thus declares that many of the Corinthians had been chastened and scourged with weakness, sickness, and even death.   The Apostle assures that these believers would not be "condemned with the world," but they were whipped with the wayward.  Accordingly, we can know that God's scourging of His beloved children can include weakness, sickness and death.
    Of course, this does not mean that all of such experience occurs as a result of God's chastening.  Our Heavenly Father determines and allows our physical challenges for a variety of reasons, all devoted to our personal sanctification and capacity to minister to others.  However, the consecrated Christian must consider the possibility that physical ailment may involve the Lord's scourge.  Prayerfully and humbly seeking His light in times of weakness and sickness is therefore the proper response.  "Heavenly Father, if this challenge bears the corrective scourge of Your hand, I trust You to show me, and to administer Your chastening accordingly.  If not, I also trust You to assure my heart, and lead me to continue in faith and obedience."
    In modern times, we seek the source of weakness, sickness and death solely in terms of the natural.  Certainly the physical order of things, as ordained by God, plays a great role in our experience of bodily challenges.  This is not the entire picture, however, and we do well to acknowledge the spiritual possibility of God's love, His loving chastening, being the reason for some physical liabilities.  Failure to do so ignores and denies the clear teaching of Scripture, and makes less likely the correction our Lord intends to effect when He wields the scourge in our lives.  
"Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him."
(Hebrews 12:5)

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