If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
- Deuteronomy 21:18-21
Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
The Lord knows all human plans;
he knows that they are futile.
Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
the one you teach from your law;
you grant them relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.
- Psalm 94:8-13
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
- 1 Corinthians 11:27-32
“If you set out to seek freedom, then learn above all things
to govern your soul and your senses, for fear that your passions
and longings may lead you away from the path you should follow.
Chaste be your mind and your body, and both in subjection,
obediently, steadfastly seeking the aim set before them;
only through discipline may a man learn to be free.”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
I thought I would finish the Dietrich Bonhoeffer series, for now, with a four-part series of ‘poems’ that he called “Stations on the Road to Freedom.” He wrote all four in about two hours, sometime near the end of July 1944, after about fifteen months in prison.
The first station along this road is discipline. The discipline in Deuteronomy 21 above is extremely harsh, but could we come close to that self-discipline within ourselves, at least the zeal to maintain our sanctity? I have known people who seemed to have that kind of discipline and on both ends of the spectrum.
What spectrum? I am not sure, but let’s call it the Joy versus Misery spectrum. I have seen those people who eat, drink, and breathe Jesus all day and the discipline does not seem to be any effort. The more they get of Jesus, the more Joy they have and the less likely that they would ever succumb to temptation. It is not about sacrificing anything. It really is not about discipline. Being like Jesus fuels itself.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum. Have you ever heard the expression about how someone has a corncob shoved up their bottom? When I first heard the expression, I thought that they should sit on a chair instead of a pile of corncobs. That would hurt. But these people are stiff and inflexible. They too are not tempted to violate the rules because they eat, drink, and breathe rules. There is a type of Joy, but the Joy is found in self-induced misery. They love pain. They think that healing requires pain. They think doing something properly has pain involved, and the end result is more pain. They may never smile, but they enjoy watching you struggle with temptations that they have the indominable willpower to resist. But they resist because a moment of pleasure would ruin their eternal, and for them comforting, pain.
Most of us are in between these extremes. I would envy the person who is so like Jesus that they no longer struggle with sin, but if I got there, I would probably feel quite proud of myself and that would ruin it.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.