Second Reading: Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Tough Love

Popular Translation

5 Have you already forgotten the words of encouragement God told you as his children?

“My child, don’t hate the way God corrects you. Don’t give up when God treats you badly. For every child God loves he corrects. He disciplines every child he calls his own.”

7 Stand tough as you are corrected, just the way God gives it to you as his children. Is there any child who has not been disciplined by a parent?

11 At the moment, all correction doesn’t seem like a joy. Instead, it’s a pain! But later on, everyone who was corrected does the right thing and lives a peaceful life.

12 So straighten up your limp hands and your weak knees! 13 Walk in a straight path, so the lame will not get worse, but will be healed.

Literal Translation

5 Have you forgotten the encouragement which he addressed to you as sons?

“My son, do not think little of the Lord’s (harsh) child rearing,
neither become weary, being reproved by him,
6 for whom the Lord loves, he rears (harshly as a child)
(he) scourges every son he receives.”

7 Endure (harsh) child rearing, as God offers to you as sons. For what son (is there) whom a father does not rear (harshly as a child)?

11 In the (moment) being present, all child rearing does not seem a joy but grief, but later it yields back the peaceful fruit of righteousness to the (ones) having been trained by it.

12 So, straighten up your hands having fallen along your sides and your knees paralyzed (by weakness) 13 and make straight tracks (like a wagon makes) for your feet, so that the lame (part) might not be turned out (of joint), but might be cured even more.

12:5b-6: Proverbs 3:11-12. This verse from the wisdom literature was used to explain the problem of evil. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Experiencing evil was a means to grow in character and spiritual maturity, the logic went.

What is harder, being a child or being a parent? Both are painful. Both are learning experiences. Being a parent means exercising responsibility for children. Being a child means learning responsibility from a parent. Sometimes that responsibility is measured in punishment.

In many modern societies, punishing a child can be verbal, but not corporal. In many other societies (like the ancients), corporal punishment is expected. In one society, the parent allows the child to suffer the consequences of an act. In other societies, the parent is the instrument of such consequences. In either case, the parent uses what is popularly known as “tough love,” parenting a child with consequences for wrong acts.

Obviously, the author of Hebrews has something like “tough love” in mind as an analogy to the life a Christian sometimes endured. In other words, for the Christian, life could be unfair. On the heals of last week’s study, the author referred to the struggles of daily life, not necessarily to the pressures of prejudice or persecution. Being a Christian meant spiritual growth, analogous to the maturity parental discipline can bring. Through life’s struggles and injustice, the Christian would learn to make the right decisions and live a peaceful life.

Whether the “tough love” parenting analogy for life works or not, we can all agree that life is sometimes unfair. There are times we cry out, “Why me, God?!” Those are the times that require personal resolve and support from others. Those are the times we can look back upon as “growth moments,” times that are not enjoyable, but do bring us closer to God and his people.

When have you experienced God’s “tough love?” How has God brought you closer to him during the rough patches in your life?