Last night, my friend Patty, showed me the tricks her little dogs could do. As I watched them perform, I noticed a few things. First of all, they never took their eyes off of Patty, even as they were performing their tricks. They listened for her voice of course but often, Patty used hand-signals. This required them to watch her carefully so that they could do the correct trick and of course... get a treat.
Another thing I noticed was that while Patty was quick to praise and reward them when they did well, she did not punish them when they did not. Sometimes they did not even try to do the trick. She didn't yell at them. Instead, she kept persisting, trying to get them to understand what she wanted and she encouraged them to do it.
Sometimes, they did the wrong trick. They thought Patty meant something else. In this case, while they did not get the treat, Patty did not punish them. Instead she would say, "no" in a firm gentle voice and repeat the command. A few times, she had to demonstrate it further with her hands or the other dog would do it properly and she would use that dog to "teach" or remind the other dog of what it was supposed to do. Though the dog might mess up a few times, she always rewarded it when it did what she asked.
This sort of reminded me of what God does with us. Daily He is teaching us to follow His ways. When we do it well, we reap the reward of "hearing" Him say, "Well done!" Sometimes though, we don't want to do what God tells us to do. We are disobedient and want to do what we want to do. When we do this, God cannot bless us.
Other times, we want to do what God is asking us to do but we get sort of mixed up. We're not quite sure what He wants us to do. We're still learning to follow His voice and His "hand-signals" or we get distracted. At any rate, we mess up.
When this happened with her dogs, Patty did not start yelling at them nor did she beat them nor did she reward them. Instead, she patiently tried to help them understand what she was wanting them to do. Sometimes they got it right immediately. Other times, she had to work with them over and over again, reminding them of what they'd been taught to do.
The love and praise in her voice was unmistakable when a little dog who had been failing was suddenly successful. How happy the little dog would be to receive it's reward from Patty.
Far too often those in authority (undershepherds) have been guilty of "beating" the sheep of God into compliance. This is not right for if God Himself does not do this, what gives us the right to think that we can?
While there certainly must be discipline within the Church, we must always be sure that our actions are in accordance with God's. One day we will all have to give an account of our actions and that includes our actions within and towards the Body of Christ.
Let us always remember that all discipline must be administered in love and that our love must not be for "the law", the the scribes and pharisees but for the individual. It was this love that caused Jesus to not stone the adulterous woman though it was permissible and even commanded under The Law. It was this love which caused him to say, "Let He who is without sin cast the first stone" and then to finally say, that He did not condemn her and that she was to go and sin no more.
What a place of love and healing our churches would be if we could get this right. How much better equipped we would be to then go out and impact our world for Christ.