Something happened this weekend that has really gotten me thinking about the difference between punishment and consequences. It's a commonly held assumption that God punishes those He loves. Personally, we have come to believe that those times when it seems that God has *punished* us because of disobedience can better be explained by saying that we have experienced the consequences of our actions.
I think the first example of *punishment* (by those that hold that belief) is the fact that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In fact, if you read Genesis 2:17, it is clear that God told Adam and Eve from the beginning that if they ate from that Tree, that they would die. My curiosity led me to find out what the Hebrew word that was used for *die* means...since there are various sources (religious as well as secular) that hold that often times when the Bible was translated, it was translated to give more power to the religious leaders of the times. The Answers in Genesis website provided an answer (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/05/02/dying-you-shall-die). To be honest, what the word means isn't as relevant as the fact that the words that are spoken are clearly stated as an *if...then* statement...which is, in fact, a CONSEQUENCE rather than a PUNISHMENT.
Another issue that came up is the word *discipline*. The Greek translation means *to train up a child*. Some say that includes *punishment*.
When I looked up the Greek word for *punishment* as found in Hebrews 12:6, I found that the Greek word is *Kolasis* and according to Thayer's Greek Lexicon it can be translated as *correction, punishment, or penalty*. So it would seem that it becomes a matter of semantics...and accordingly, a person's *emotional translation*, so to speak. In other words, punishment has a very negative connotation to me, personally. It is the reaction to my action or behavior with the intent to *get back at me* for disobeying in the eyes of the person meting out the *punishment*. Whereas correction or penalty means something very different to me. It is the predetermined response, relative to the rule broken, that is a result of the rule that is broken. As an example...if I walk into the middle of a busy street and get hit by a car, that is not *punishment*, but consequences.
Furthermore, punishment as I understand the meaning of the word, does not show love, but rather vengeance. It is, as I said, a means of getting back at me for doing something wrong...for disobeying in some way, shape, or form. And...that rule is typically unspoken...meaning I am not aware of its presence...nor expecting *correction*. Which, by the way, is the feeling that has been portrayed to me concerning the experiences that occurred this weekend. I am being punished for disagreeing with *leadership*....being rejected for having the audacity to state an opinion different from someone who seems themselves *over* me.
As defined by dictionary.com, punishment means *a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc.; severe handling or treatment.* A consequence, however, is defined as *the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier; an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome.* In my earlier example, the fact that I got hit by a car was a result of me walking into oncoming traffic. It was not God's punishment.
A better example: David was offered 2 jobs. I believed that the first job was the one he should take, but the money was better at the second job, so he took that one. Several things happened. First he was sent out of town 2 weeks later on this job...which put a huge stress on all of us, mostly because of the accident he had recently experienced. He ended up calling the other job back, who still wanted to hire him, and changing jobs. In the process, he had a few days of not working, which resulted in less income. Also, because of the difference in how the new company paid, we had a stressful month because of a low first paycheck. Was that God's punishment? Some would say yes...but we see it as a consequence. Had we obeyed God, we would not have experienced the stress of David being out of town, or the stress of a lack of finances. Did God DO that to us? NO!!! According to the definitions stated above, it was *the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier.*
Again...if it was PUNISHMENT...why would God have bothered to take care of us through it? The connotation of punishment to me is rejection. Punishment says *you've done this, so I'm turning away from you until you get back on track.* That is NOT God's character...it never has been!
See...if God is a loving God...then even the act of Him turning His face from us (which I don't believe He does, simply because of Christ) would logically be from sadness and disappointment, rather than anger. It's not a rejection, but a reaction of not wanting to see me hurt because I have disobeyed Him.
Now...logically...let me ask a question. How can you have a *relationship* with somebody you are afraid of? How can you have a *relationship* with someone that will choose to punish you at the drop of a hat? Is there anyone that can say that they hear every word God speaks to them AND obeys it? NO! Therefore, punishment, meted out by a just God, leaves little room for relationship, and much room for fear of judgment.
I am NOT saying that there are not consequences for our disobedience. And sometimes those consequences are harsh. But they are a RESULT of our disobedience, rather than an arbitrary act of a God that desires to beat the snot out of us until we decide to choose the way He wants us to go!
I do NOT believe that God turns away from us or leaves us when we disobey, because then He would be a liar and in direct contrast to His statement in Hebrews 13:5, *Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.* (Which, by the way, is a restatement of Deuteronomy 31:6.)
If, in fact, you go back to the Law in the Old Testament, you will see that with each law, God provides a consequence for the breaking of that law. I state again...that *to me* punishment and consequence are NOT the same thing. A consequence is a result...whereas a punishment is an arbitrary act.
Something else that was presented this weekend was that things like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, even birth defects/deformities, etc. are a result of God's punishment. I vehemently object to that statement and would gladly go toe-to-toe with anyone that truly believes that. If, in fact, 9/11 was God's punishment...what exactly was He punishing...and who? How many people SHOULD HAVE been there and weren't? What were the acts of disobedience that the people who died there committed...and why punish THEM and not ALL people that committed those acts of disobedience? Furthermore...that's an awfully big *blanket* of sin to punish...especially at one time. AND...as I type this...I am reminded of God's words to Noah that He would NEVER send another flood to destroy all life....so why would He punish on such a great scale again? The same goes for Hurricane Katrina...and even the Tsunami? Were there sinners there? SURE!!! But *I* sin...so why spare me?
I take great offense as well in the statement that birth deformities are a punishment of disobedience. I have had 2 children born with clubfeet. The first was completely healed...so did God decide to take back His punishment on me? Or on my child? The second has not received healing yet...but I know as sure as I stand here that God has promised healing for Him. I can say with all honesty, that I was seeking God with EVERYTHING in me at the time my second child was born with clubfoot. I was *doing* everything I knew to do...seeking counsel...praying...tithing...so what was my act of disobedience...or my child's act of disobedience that caused God to *punish* him? If, in fact, his deformity is the result of an act of disobedience, I can honestly say I agree that it is punishment...because I have no idea what either of us did *wrong* to *deserve* the deformity! And I will be as bold to say that I can NOT trust a God (or anyone else) that would mete out a punishment without telling me *why*.
The final statement that was made this weekend that I vehemently disagree with is that we are still under the curse of the law. For starters, let's start out Biblically. Genesis 3:14-19 is where the curse is laid on mankind. However, Galatians 3:13 clearly shows that we are no longer under the curse because JESUS became the curse for us. *Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."* I can also prove experientially that *I* am no longer under the curse. Genesis 3:16 states, *To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children..."* Joshua's birth was absolutely painless. In fact, I *looked* and *waited* for pain, especially after my water broke...and while I was pushing...but there was NONE! Furthermore, even before this topic came up, I have been thinking about my previous births, and realizing that until my water broke and I was PUT ON PITOCIN, I had not experienced pain with any of my other births! I truly believe, had I been patient and allowed my body to work the way God intended it to, I would not have experienced pain in ANY of my births! I do NOT believe that there is something spiritually amiss with anyone that experiences pain in childbirth. I am simply stating my own personal experiences and beliefs!
I am NOT trying to persuade anyone to change their own beliefs. I am simply stating my own beliefs. I respect the beliefs of others, but would appreciate the opportunity to state my beliefs as well. I believe they are Biblical, and have backed them up to the best of my ability. I have been very hurt this weekend by those who have disrespected my husband and myself, and have rejected us simply because we do not agree. And honestly...is this whole topic even one that matters???? The bottom line is...we get to heaven because of the work of Jesus. THAT is our *ticket*, if you will. The rest is doctrine.