I am old enough to remember when gym and shop teachers competed for the most impressive “hack paddles”. Yes, they actually used physical punishment in those days. As one wag put it: “We have to apply the board of education to the seat of knowledge.”
Hebrews 12:11 says that no discipline seems pleasant at the time. We often read this chapter on the value of discipline with a jaundiced ear – as when our parent said, “This will hurt me more than it hurts you.”
Yet the discipline in Hebrews 12 is not physical punishment. It is more like the discipline of a successful athlete. Actually it is like the discipline of a successful (fill in the blank).
How can I say that?
- The root of the word for discipline comes from the word for child. (paideia/pais) It carries the idea of teaching a child. It is in this sense that we have the English word pedagogy 0r how to teach.
- The context of the passage speaks of athletic completion: Run the race in v. 1, with the idea of casting off excess weight and endurance; v. 7 says “endure hardship as discipline”; Father’s discipline and God’s discipline is not limited in the text to physical punishment.
- The individual in v. 1, the Lord in v 2-3 and the “son” in vv. 4-11 are all motivated by a positive goal (finishing the race, the joy that Christ anticipated and a harvest of righteousness).
- BAG Lexicon defines paideuo: bring up, instruct, train, educate; correct, punish. So it has a range of meaning that includes punishment but also includes training and teaching.
So when Mr. Hahn, my Junior High School PE teacher, who was rumored to be an ex drill sergeant, pushed us to run faster, climb higher and play harder he was teaching discipline. When he called us “hamburgers” for running our laps slowly and when he pulled out his “hack paddle” made of a piece of rubber gym flooring material, he was also disciplining us. We found all of this unpleasant, but he was attempting to accomplish something.
No only when the dreaded words came, “assume the position”.
Gotta go, need to run some laps…fast!