Rebuked and Disciplined in Love
In Revelation 3:19, Jesus tells the church in Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
I think we need to really understand what this is saying. We use these words today as a synonym to punish. When we think of rebuke, we think of scolding someone, berating, finger-wagging, criticizing. When we think of discipline, we think of punishment, spanking, time-outs, being grounded, yelling.
But how does that fit with “those whom I love”?
It also brings up the question in our minds, when we are going through hard times, is it God’s punishment for something that we are doing wrong? This thinking isn’t anything new, Job faced it when he was tested, the priests professed it for those who were physically diseased. Even some religions profess that difficult situations, pain and affliction are “karma” for bad things. You earn the punishment.
Again, that doesn’t fit with “those whom I love”.
However, if you dig deeper and look into the origins of the words rebuke and discipline, it paints a bigger picture with a deeper meaning.
The word rebuke has origins in in the Old French language. It means to force back or repress. It is similar to repent. Repent is to turn back away from the wrong path. Rebuke is to intervene in the life or actions of another to direct or prompt them to change their path. It word be God’s personal engagement in your life prompting you into an act of repenting and changing path from the direction you are going.
But the word is actually even deeper in meaning than that. The “buke” in the origin of the word is the same word that became busche or buche in French, meaning log. Even non-French speakers may have heard of the Christmas treat known as a buche de noel (yule log cake). So, in the original word, a rebuker would be someone who, literally, would cut out logs as in removing the dead and diseased word from a tree.
A gardner or arborist who “rebukes” a tree is not punishing the tree by forcing it back into a healthy path and trimming off the dead and diseased word. I’m not saying that I think the tree would look forward to it or enjoy it, but it is being done in love and for the good of the plant.
In the same way, I think we misinterpret the word discipline. Again, to most of us, to face discipline means to face punishment. However, we also use the term as a compliment at other times, commending an individual or group for being disciplined to accomplish their goals and objectives. We want our police, fire, soldiers, scientists, engineers, etc. to be disciplined in what they do.
The primary definition of the word discipline is not punishment but training. It is “to train someone to follow and obey rules or a code of behavior” according to the dictionary. Interestingly, the origin of discipline is the same as the origin of disciple. To be a disciple means to undergo training and to submit in obedience to God.
I think with this further light we gain a much deeper understanding of this verse. Because God loves us He is willing to actively be engaged in our lives. He is willing to not only stand in our way when we have gotten our lives on the wrong path, but to intervene and cause us to turn back. He is willing to step in and trim away the dead and diseased wood we have allowed to grow. And after turning us around, He doesn’t leave us to wander aimlessly, but He trains us in His path, in His word, and toward His light.
In response, we are called on to “be earnest and repent.” Even in repenting, we are not called upon to use our own strength and will power. God is calling those He loves “to be sincere in their conviction” (earnest) toward Him and yield to His desire to turn their lives around and back toward Him (repent).
As a loving parent, God’s primary desire is to help His children grow and accomplish amazing things. He wants His children to be on the right path and He is willing to do all the hard work to lead and teach and walk along side and even carry them along the way.
That is love!
Forgiven and clothed in wedding robes given a gift to present
crown, eternal life
Rebuke = force back original from cut down wood (bukier as in busche, log). Cut away dead wood.
Discipline – root in the word disciple, method or methodology. train, drill, teach
It is not punishment, but training and correction to adhere to a new course, a better course, with deadwood removed