Dad was a harsh disciplinarian—at least when I was young. I’m not sure where his ideas of discipline originated because he didn’t copy the pattern of his parents or grandparents. Dad went by the book. Severe consequences followed broken rules. His parents were more understanding and lenient.
Dad was also strict in his view of God. God had rules and regulations that must be followed. When they weren’t, discipline followed. God was also a God of love, but God was quick to punish when someone broke his laws—not lenient or understanding.
While growing up, I noticed Dad’s view of God bled over into how he conducted his household. Perhaps his idea of God explains why I had a framed set of rules hung on my bedroom wall—a list of dos and don’ts, accompanied by consequences for breaking each don’t.
Dad was right in one sense. God does have rules he expects me to abide by, and when I choose to break them, consequences follow. I suppose it was the way Dad carried out the process that colored my view of God as a harsh deity instead of a loving Savior.
David knew God had rules, but he also pictured him as his shepherd—which paints a different portrait.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1 NLT).
God disciplined him when he went astray—and he did quite a few times—but he also lovingly guided his life journey.
If I think of God as a harsh disciplinarian—sitting in heaven waiting for me to make a mistake—I might still love him, but my relationship with him will be somewhat distant, not close up and personal. On the other hand, if I see him as a grandfatherly type, I might assume he’ll let me get away with anything without consequence—which he won’t.
Jesus showed us the loving characteristics of God that the rules of the religious leaders had almost covered completely. But he also reminded us God has standards he expects us to obey. When my view of God is balanced, I’ll obey him because I love him and because of what he’s done for me, not simply because I’m afraid he’ll punish me if I don’t.
Think correct thoughts about God, so you will love him deeply and serve him intently.
Martin Wiles is an author, pastor, English teacher, and freelance editor who resides in Greenwood, South Carolina. He is the founder and editor of the internationally recognized website, Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). Wiles is the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and an Administrator/Editor for Vinewords.net. He has authored seven books. His most recent is Don’t Just Live…Really Live.He has also been published in numerous publications. He is the husband of one, the father of two, and the grandfather of six.