Our society has grown beyond the point of punishing people - for we have become enlightened to where such things are seen as barbaric. We even hold such a view of child training as well. Yet the words of Scripture stand here - and even shock our sensibilities in the 21st century. Now, am I saying here that we should return to caning people - putting them on a whipping post? My answer to this is simply - such a thing is not allowed in our culture - but I'm not so sure that such things are too much to our advantage. Let's begin by looking at the passage itself - then we'll come back to my shocking comments - and maybe some shocking conclusions.
"Stripes that wound" definitely shocks us. The phrase means stripes that are delivered that leave bruises. It can also mean stripes from some sort of corporal punishment. There is no doubt that this means corporal punishment. 21st century society in the West shrinks from such a statement in horror. We have come beyond this point - we are enlightened. Hmmm - and how is that working for our society? Has our system of crime and punishment led to a safer and more secure society? Do we have "repeat" offenders - does our system "scour away evil"? Although I'm sure some reading this would consider me little more than complete barbarian for saying so - I'm not sure that we have the perfect system in place.
It is interesting to note that in Taiwan, where corporal punishment is used for certain offenses - their crime rate is far lower than ours - and their repeat offender rate is a fraction of what ours is. Could it be that a controlled corporal punishment is good for us? Could it be that receiving a beating, a caning, or some other form of corporal punishment is a greater deterent to crime and misbehavior in society than is encarceration for months and years? In a world where our penal system has become little more than "Crime University" for those who are there - where they are trained in crime and recruited for a lifetime of law-breaking - can we honestly say that what we are doing is what is most effective?
God tells us that corporal punishment "scours away evil." The phrase used here speaks of using a type of brillo pad to scrape and scour out a metal pan. This was the way they cleaned vessels in biblical days. They would scour out a pot, making sure that it was clean of debris and of rust. When they were done - there was nothing harmful left. There is a cost to corporal punishment - a true physical cost - and the pain experienced reminds us to avoid such behavior in the future. Granted such punishment must be closely controlled to make sure that it does not cross over into abuse. (The Scriptures did not allow a man to be whipped beyond 39 stripes.) But physical pain is a motivator - a powerful one. The natural response in our lives to physical pain is to avoid it. Think of your own response to any kind of physical pain. You avoid it - and the only times you allow it is when you know that it has a positive result that goes beyond the pain. We exercise knowing full well that we will experience soreness - yet we know that such exercise is good for us in the end. Could it be that corporal punishment has such a value individually and corporately as a society?
The second half of this proverb says that the strokes reach our innermost parts. Too many look at corporal punishment in light of the physical pain - but according to the Word of God - these strokes reach our innermost parts. There is more than just physical pain in the flesh going on in the person receiving it. There is something communicated to the "inner man." There is warning - there is instruction - there is correction. We remember the pain and honestly - the humiliation involved. Corporal punishment is forced humility - which is something the proud need to humble them to obey the law - to obey what is best for their souls. When it is over we think to ourselves - I won't do that again!
Where this is true of the physical - it is also true of the spiritual stripes that are delivered when we are experiencing the judgments and corrections of God. Here is another thing that is rejected by most of the 21st century enlightened ones. God would not punish - He does not judge! They are indignant with the very thought of such a thing.
God is an excellent parent - the best of the best. His children need rules - need laws - need limits. When they step over those limits there are consequences. No matter how much we or our government want to create a world without consequences - such a world is NOT GOOD for us. It is better that we experience the pain of what our disobedience brings - for such things keep us from future disobedience. The consequences of our actions act like a loving stripe and a gracious stroke that will scour evil from our souls. These things reach our very innermost being. It would be wonderful if we would simply hear God's Word - obey it and be blessed 24 hours of every day. But we are fallen - and we think we're smarter than God. We disregard the instruction and forge on thinking that we really know better - or that the rules really don't apply to us. Then the consequences of our actions come like stripes to our souls. Those strokes reach our innermost parts and instruct us that we can ignore and contradict God - but we do so at the peril of our own safety and happiness. God's scouring in these situations cleanses us and makes us much less interested in evil in the future.
Stripes and strokes - whether physical or spiritual - are actually good for us. Without them we will place too much trust in our own faulty conclusions when they contradict those of God, Who truly does know best. Is all this pleasant? Not in the least - but often the unpleasant is far more instructive to us than a world without any consequences or punishment. Some describe this world without punishment or consequence as paradise. In the end though, such a world is only a breeding ground for pride, arrogance, and a foolishness that will lead to destruction. The school of stripes and strokes may seem severe to us now - but in the end they bring peace and joy as we learn the way of God's judgments and corrections - and how to avoid them through a life of submission and obedience to His infinitely wise ways.
POSTSCRIPT: Recently, individuals have quoted articles from this section and stated that we teach child abuse at Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. To this I feel the need to respond. First, biblically, we are told that if we have a problem with our brother to go to our brother - not the internet - and confront our brother. To date, these individuals have yet to contact me to discuss these things. That should say volumes in itself.
Second, we do not teach child abuse at our fellowship. This blog is an endeavor to teach what is in the Bible for the edification and upbuilding of God's people. Anyone who has been to our fellowship knows that in our classrooms we administer NO physical discipline. We correct with words and with "time outs" and eventually with a report to parents. From our nursery throughout every age group our people are instructed NEVER to administer physical discipline. We believe this right alone belongs to a parent. Even then we teach the following about any application of physical discipline.
Discipline is about the heart of a child. Physical or corporal punishment is ONLY to be administered in a spirit of love for the child. Teaching and loving verbal correction is key - as is prayer for the child's eventual salvation in Jesus Christ. Any physical punishment administered due to anger or rage is out of line and wrong. The parent is to discipline the child with appropriate discipline - not abuse. In the end the child should be taught - and in every circumstance hugged, loved, and prayed with after any physical punishment to assure them of our love. The idea of a "beating" is completely out of step with what the Scriptures are teaching. Instead the idea of loving discipline is intended.