“For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
A child who has enjoyed the privilege of growing up in a home with a loving father often looks back fondly at that experience. Yet even the most loving human father is an imperfect father.
You see, a good parent rarely has all the information necessary to provide perfect guidance for a child. For example, there may be extenuating circumstances, or other factors that are beyond a parent’s knowledge. In fact, a child may sometimes exploit that lack of information to his or her advantage.
Parents are also limited by time. As children grow and mature, a good parent must constantly adapt to the changing needs of the child. He or she must account for the child’s growing knowledge (or lack of it), the child’s experience (or lack of it), his or her emotional characteristics, and any potential vulnerabilities the child may possess. As the child grows towards adulthood, a parent must then assume less of a supervisory role and more of a mentorship position in the child’s life.
Finally, a parent is also limited by his or her own fallibility. For example, a parent may find it difficult to separate his or her emotional involvement in a disciplinary situation. A good parent might also suffer from fatigue, various forms of stress, or other variables that may affect his or her capacity to discipline a child properly. These limitations help explain why the New Testament book of Galatians offers the following word of encouragement…
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Galatians 6:4 NLT).
We can contrast these limitations with the infinite wisdom of our spiritual Father. Unlike an imperfect human being, God’s discipline is always perfect. It is never more or less than we need, and is perfectly tailored to the situation at hand. And while an earthly parent may have something less than a child’s best disciplinary interest in mind, God always “…disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (ESV).
Thus, we can distill this passage into one summary observation…
“Our earthly fathers may sometimes have been mistaken in their estimate of the discipline that we needed; our heavenly Father, in the perfection of His wisdom and love, can be relied upon never to impose any discipline on us that is not for our good. The supreme good that He has in view for His children is this, that they should share His holiness.” (1)
(1) The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Epistle To The Hebrews, F. F. Bruce, General Editor © Copyright 1964, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan [pg. 359]