My phone rang. “Hey, Kris, it’s grandma! Hey, do you think you could give me a ride to the bank today? Our car is in the shop and I need to get this check deposited.”
I drove to my grandma’s house, picked her up, and we headed out to the bank. We were sitting at a red light when, all of a sudden, my grandma starts crying. Now, I’ve been told that my driving is a bit scary, but I’ve never scared someone to tears! What was going on?
Before even having the opportunity to ask, my grandma said, “I don’t know what I’ve done! I just feel like God is punishing me.”
Instantly, I knew what she was referring to. She and her husband recently had to bury their dog, Xena. They can deny it all they want; of their three dogs, Xena was their favorite.
All I knew to say was: “Grandma, I doubt God is punishing you. You know, sometimes…dogs get sick. That doesn’t mean God is mad at you.”
I’m not sure my words had any effect. However, it did get me to thinking: does God punish us?
In the Old Testament, it does seem that God punishes people. The first example that comes to mind is the times the Israelites are exiled. Usually, they were being exiled because of their disobedience. How about the fall of man? Could we view that as a punishment on humanity? Plagues of Egypt? The flood? Jonah being swallowed by a whale/fish?
But, that’s the Old Testament. What about now? What about today? Does God punish us? Does God make bad things happen to us when we sin? Is there anything, within Scripture, to suggest that God works within a punishment and rewards system?
We must first understand that the crucifixion was sufficient to forgive all sins. Friends, you are forgiven. You are free. To suggest additional punishment is required to wipe our slates clean is to imply that the death of Jesus’ death wasn’t enough. And that, my dear friends, is what we call heresy. (Just saying.)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1-2
There is no punishment required for our sins because Jesus paid it all. He paid our debt. He wiped our slate clean.
However, God will discipline us. While our sins are forgiven, we do often succumb to temptation. Like the loving Father that He is, God wants what is best for us. When He sees sin in our lives of which we are unrepentant, He may discipline us so we reach a place of repentance.
Discipline and punishment aren’t the same thing. Punishment is a penalty given for an offense. Our offense is sin. The penalty is death. Jesus did that. (Yes, there is redundancy in this post. But…this is important.)
Discipline, however, is instruction, training, and a cultivation of the soul. Discipline is constant. Our loving Father won’t give up on us. He will always be there to help us grow in holiness.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” – Hebrews 12:6
But…then why do such horrible things happen? Why do our dogs die? Why do Christian women, who desperately want a baby, have miscarriages? Why do 19-year-olds get cancer? Well, to me, the answer is fairly simple: we live in a sinful and fallen world. Bad things happen because the enemy does still have some power over this world. But, I’ve read the Book, I know his reign won’t last forever.
When we do face hardships, we can learn to find contentment in Christ. The Apostle Paul talks about that in the book of Philippians (4:12-13). Understand, though, when you face hardships, God isn’t punishing you for something bad you did.
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