Punishment and Evangelism at School

The Biblical Educator
Christian Education: The Christian Thinker as Teacher, Part 2

[The bolded closed brackets are my commentary.]

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By Rodney N. Kirby

#11 “Punishment and Evangelism” (Genesis 4:1-15)

We have mentioned in a previous article the fact that Scripture draws a parallel between God’s disciplining of us, and our disciplining of our children. If we are to be Godly in our dealings with our children, we must see how God deals with us. Our text this month records another instance of God’s method of punishment. We will note several points, and seek to apply them to discipline in the school.

[I can hear the howls at the mere mention of “God’s method of punishment.”

All I can say, is that we should not mix up God and Santa Claus. One is a soft’n’spineless wish fulfillment creation of man. The other is not.]

First, we may notice in vs. 6-7, that God detects Cain’s attitude of rebellion, before it breaks out in an outward act. Speaking anthropomorphically, we may say that God could tell that Cain was up to no good. He could tell that Cain was upset about the non-acceptance of his offering, and that wicked plans were running through his mind. And so God warned Cain, before he committed the outward transgression. “If you obey, and come to Me on My terms, I will accept your offering. But sin is lying in wait for you; watch out? You must conquer your sin.”

God, of course, being omniscient, could look into Caine heart and see where he was heading. Even though man is not so omniscient, he nevertheless can generally tell what a person who is being tempted to sin has on his mind. This is especially true in regard to children. Every parent and teacher of young children knows how to “read” their children; you can see what their scheming little mind is up to. “Johnny, don’t you dare even think about doing that.”

We must warn our children before they do wrong. It is all too easy to sit back and watch them do wrong, and then pounce on them. We must make the rules clear ahead of time (no “post facto” laws), and must warn of what will happen for disobedience. Our goal is not to punish our children, but to teach them in the right paths. If a warning will prevent disobedience, the punishment will not be necessary; the child still will learn obedience. Of course, we are not condoning the all-too-common “warning,” “If you do that one more time, so help me, I’ll…. ” ‘What we mean is warnings that come before any actual disobedience has taken Place.

[We must warn children before they do wrong. We should follow the example of God, and not the prompting of our own ego-bloat.]

In vs. 12, God tells Cain that the ground will no longer respond to him, as it had before (cf. vs. 2), and that he will be forced to wander. In essence, God removes Cain’s dominion from him. Cain will no longer be able (successfully) to exercise dominion over the earth. Cain had shown himself to be irresponsible as a viceregent of God, and so he is removed from a position of authority.

[Many Secularists, who sympathize far more with Cain than they ever will with Abel, are going to be astonished when the same happens to them. Assuming they even think that is possible for them to lose power.]

Even so, we may punish disobedience in our children by taking away responsibilities from them. If a student is given the responsibility of taking a note to the office, for example, and he abuses that responsibility (by stopping in the restroom for a smoke), then (along with other punishments) he should not be given that responsibility again. If your son is caught drag racing down Main Street, his car keys should be taken away until he gives evidence of having learned godly responsibility. Students who demonstrate irresponsibility thereby demonstrate their inability to exercise dominion properly, and that dominion is removed from them.

Verse 11 brings up an important point. Cain was “cursed,” in contrast to Adam and Eve (see Gen. 3:16-19), who were not directly cursed. The difference is to be seen as rooted in the different states of the souls of Adam and Cain. Adam confessed his sin to the Lord (3:12—”and I did eat”). Adam responded to God’s chastisement with a recognition of the grace of God. In 3:20, Adam sees that through his wife, God will sustain life, ultimately through the promised seed (cf. 3:15). God symbolically washed Adam and Eve from their sins by the death of a substitute, and by clothing them with the skin of that substitute (3:21).

In contrast, Cain never confessed his sin. In fact, the only response he made to God was a complaint. He complained that his punishment was too severe, that he would not be able to stand it (4:13-14). Cain maintained this, even though he knew God’s punishment was what he deserved, or rather that God was not even punishing him as severely as he deserved (Rom. 1:32). Cain deserved to die (Ezek. 18:4), and God was showing mercy to him in not destroying him at that moment.

[There was no confession, and no repentance. So how could there ever be forgiveness?]

One man was regenerate, one of the elect of God; the other was an unrepentant reprobate. Thus, God did not “curse” Adam, while He did “curse” Cain. The differing states of the respective souls was reflected in differing punishments.

[Interesting point!]

In applying this to our work as Christian teachers, we must immediately make a distinction between our discipline and God’s. God can see the heart of man; God knows who the elect and who the reprobate are. Men (not even teachers!) do not have this ability. However, we can detect the difference between a repentant student and a hardened, unrepentant student. The godly student will manifest his regenerate nature in outward acts; the unrepentant student will likewise manifest his true nature. (Matt. 7:17-18).

[The unrepentant student should be shown the door.]

And so we should make a distinction in our punishment between the repentant and the unrepentant students. God surely punished the repentant Adam, but He punished more severely the unrepentant Cain. So we may punish an unrepentant student more severely than we do the repentant student. Two students may throw rocks through school windows. One, who evidences genuine repentance over his sin, may be required to work to make restitution for the damage. The other, who shows no signs of sorrowful repentance, may be expelled from school. The unrepentant student (or his parents) will often complain (as did Cain) about “unfair” punishment; the godly student generally will submit to punishment.

Such unrepentance in a student points to a need for evangelism. This student must be shown that his lack of sorrow over sin shows his sinful heart. The teacher will point out to the student that, when he complains about the severity of his punishment, he is acting just like the reprobate Cain. He should be told that he deserves much more severe punishment than what we administer—that his sin deserves death, and places him under the wrath of God. He should be implored and commanded to repent, forsake his sins, flee to Christ, and seek forgiveness from God. Remember, the goal of punishment by men is the restoration of the offender. We do not desire to expel the offending student, but desire his reconciliation to God, and resulting godly obedience. Let us not forsake this opportunity to evangelize the children God has entrusted to us.

[We are to treat the students as we would want God to treat us…. not least, because we ARE God’s students in many ways!]

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