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Lessons From Animals--"Discipline"

"Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you."
Deuteronomy 8:5


In this series of articles, I've tried to share some of the joys, and lessons, we can learn from animals. Incidentally, my two cats are a little miffed that I haven't talked about THEM yet--and I will. But I still have a couple things to say about my dogs.

I'm still not sure that was really my fault...I've mentioned that, from time to time, the conduct of my dogs isn't quite what I'd like from them. And, from time to time, I even need to administer discipline. Ugh--what a nasty word.

Let me first say that I don't believe in hitting animals. Discipline is not about anger--it's about correction. When I discipline my dogs, I seek to correct behavior--and it is not necessary to inflict harm in order to correct behavior (in fact, I'll talk about abuse in my next article). My girls know me, and my tone of voice, well enough that a strong "NO" generally suffices. They may not OBEY, but the fact that they RUN AWAY tells me they know they're in trouble!

I was once very surprised, as a young boy, to see a mother cat pick up a kitten and toss it into the air. Aside from being an extraordinary sight--watching a cat, using it's mouth, pick a kitten up by the neck, and literally toss it into the air--I later learned that this is how mother cats discipline their kittens. Even in the wild, creatures discipline their children--just like us.

It sometimes troubles us to consider that, like a parent, God disciplines us. But look at how the author of Hebrews puts it, in 12:5 - 11:


And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.


The author explains that discipline is a normal part of life; in fact, we should expect it--and respect it--from our parents! It reminds me of an episode of Silver Spoons, in which Ricky's dad learned that a loving father is one who disciplines. As a counselor at camp a couple years ago, I asked the question, "What are the qualities of a good and loving parent?" The first camper who answered said, "A good and loving parent disciplines." A scary time in my own life was when I began to understand some of the parenting and discipline choices my folks made. Even worse, as I grew older, I actually began to agree!

It makes sense, then, that God--in His love for us--would also offer discipline. And, like a good parent, God's discipline is not rooted in anger or vindication. God's discipline is an attempt to train and correct us, and even to protect us, that we might live a right and peaceful life. And He disciplines us because He loves us.


 In Christ,


--Pastor Dan 


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