“And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.”
Whether or not people want to admit it, there are consequences to sin. Just because our sins were paid for at Calvary doesn’t negate the consequences of sin. The sowing and reaping principle affects both the lost and the saved; it affects both the just and the unjust. There must be punishment for sin or else its lawlessness takes over.
Though sin must be punished, the punishment should be done with the right attitude and with the proper motive. Punishment should never take the hope of an individual because God is a God of restoration. God’s purpose in punishment is to restore to usefulness. The verse above shows how punishment should be administered.
First, punishment should never end the relationship. Though God said He would punish Israel for their sin, He also said that He was still the “LORD their God.” God’s punishment didn’t end their relationship; rather, He reinforced their relationship. When a person is punished, they must understand that your relationship with them is not in jeopardy; punishment had to be administered because the rules were broken. If you want the punished to keep hope that there is a future, you are going to have to stress that your relationship with them is not in jeopardy. Punishment should never drive you apart, but it should draw you closer to the punished. If you are punishing with the right attitude and motive, your relationship with them will not be jeopardy.
Second, punishment should never cause you to treat a person differently. God said, “I will not cast them away…” Exiling the punished only drives them away from you and God. The purpose of punishment is never to drive them away, but its purpose is to draw them closer to you and God. If after you administer the punishment you continue to treat them as if you are still upset with them, you will push them towards the world. Punishment should never cause you to love a person differently. Punishment should never drive a wedge between you and the punished because your purpose is to restore. If you want the punished to have hope of restoration, you are going to have to move on immediately after the punishment and treat them as you have always treated them.
Third, punishment should make the hope of the future clearer. God didn’t break His covenant with Israel regarding the Promised Land being theirs; rather, He made it clear that though He would punish them, the purpose of the punishment was so that they would live in the Promised Land according to His guidelines. Punishment should never cause a person to feel that they are useless; rather, it should paint a clearer picture that God can use them in a better way if they will just do right. Be careful about removing the hope of the future because of punishment. Yes, punishment has consequences, and sometimes those consequences come at a cost, but they should never make a person feel that God can never use them. God can use anyone after sin; it just may be that He has to rearrange the blueprint for what they can do.
Let me encourage you to be careful that your punishment doesn’t remove hope. The only thing that the punished person has to hold onto is hope, and if that is removed, it will drive them to do worse than they have already done. If you punish with restoration in view, hope will never be removed.