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18th August: Being Cruel to be Kind

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

No medical person needs to be told that sometimes we must be cruel to be kind. The days of surgery without anaesthesia and or nauseous drugs (remember caster oil?) are mercifully over. But most necessary surgery is still painful at some stage. The side effects of potent modern drugs must be weighed against their therapeutic value. A rigorous diet-exercise regime can be a sore trial to an over-weight patient. And so on. One must sometimes be cruel to be kind. It is a medical cliche.

In everyday life it is still a cliche. But like most cliches it is true enough -- with some qualifications. It is never an excuse for deliberate and unwarranted cruelty, for the malicious gossip or the wielder of the poison-pen who, 'speaking as a friend', creates a havoc of suspicion or despair; for the sadistic parent who takes it out on his family 'for their own good'; for the lazy doctor who neglects his patients 'because it is not good to pander to their whims'.

The Bible has many examples of the sort of thing the writer of the letter to the Hebrews is talking about: merciful rebukes, salutary disciplines, inescapable judgments. God is loving and patient, long-suffering and of great goodness. But he is not an indulgent grandfather. His love is deeper and more constructive than that. So he allows and uses many circumstances and happenings as discipline.

It is important to understand that discipline is not necessarily punishment. We do not have to feel guilty every time something goes wrong. But it is time to take stock. What has happened may be the result of our own foolishness, neglect or ignorance, but we should be listening for the warning bell. Often we can hear the voice of God speaking through the circumstances. And it may not be a voice of soft comfort. It will still be the voice of love.

Thank you, Lord, that you care enough about me to
discipline me. Help me to understand and co-operate.

Further reading: Heb 12:1-11. Rev 3:14-22.


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