On punishment...

Recently in a small Bible study group a discussion came up about a church who disciplined one of its members who had confessed cheating sexually by sending a letter to the congregation with detailed instructions on how to interact with the person in social settings. It was punitive.

I've thought about it a lot recently. The conversation plays along with another conversation I have in my head with a friend whose spouse cheated on them.  Their response was: "But if I forgive, then there are no consequences.  They just get away with it."

In both scenarios I find myself struck by the desire to punish in contrast to Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery. (He stopped the crowd from stoning her and sent her home forgiven.) Or his response to brutal beatings, humiliation and being hung to die...("Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing.)...

If we are called to that kind of forgiveness--and I believe we are--then what about consequences?

I think it is possible that we don't believe that good is good.  Like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son we believe that the grass is greener in rebellion.

What if our hearts shifted so that we knew that "the right thing" was the most joyful, beautiful and best? That we saw the person in sin as the one in the cage rather than the one who was free? What if we really believed that love was a much more powerful tool than punishment for restoration?

It occurs to me that there is a gap between the heart of scripture and our practice.  One we desperately need to close.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall