The Difference between condemnation and discipline

Both of these words sound tough and painful yet one of them is something that Christians can and should expect for their benefit.  What’s the difference between the two?

Well, condemnation when delivered by us

          Enables us to feel proud and vindicated in comparison to the person we condemn

          Crushes and destroys the one we condemn as it heaps shame and guilt upon them.

Remember that there is the true state of condemnation that sin brings. Outside of Christ we all stand condemned.  “There is no-one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). We are all guilty sinners “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

However, in Christ, we have been forgiven so that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Discipline on the other hand is different because it:

          Humbles us as we are aware of our own shortcomings. It is painful to the one who brings discipline just as much as it is to the one who receives it.

          It seeks the restoration of the one who needs discipline.

Whilst Christians are not under condemnation, the Bible is clear that we receive God’s discipline because he loves us as a heavenly father (Hebrews 12:6). Indeed, that tells us something else about the difference.

I can condemn someone and then walk away. I don’t have to stop and understand what has made them act or speak in a particular way. I simply dismiss them. I label them as proud, lazy, arrogant, stupid, selfish, controlling, weak, overbearing etc. 

But when I am concerned for a friend then I may need to challenge them about what they have said or done. However, I cannot simply walk away. I may observe that I am concerned about their behaviour and the danger they are. This means discipline is taking place, the conversation will be painful but it will lead to greater self-control, love, patience, kindness. In other words, it will lead to growth in my friend’s faith.  It also means that I will need to stop and ask why they did or said what they did. What did they intend to do or say? What caused them to re-act like that? Are they desperate, frightened, hurt?  Love causes me to stay. Love does not duck the hard conversation but it does shape it.

Discipline is a vital part of Christian growth. It is central to being a disciple. In our next article we will look at some of the ways that we experience discipline in the Christian life.