Andy Naselli quoted Martyn Lloyd–Jones and D.A. Carson saying that in the season of very young children it is difficult for mothers to have the time for Bible study or other serious reading. Andy got some friendly push–back and responded with a follow–up post. All of this got me to thinking, especially since one of my passions is to encourage women to pursue God by loving him with all their minds.
There is no doubt that there are intellectually lazy women, whether they are single, married, or with children makes no difference. Just like there are intellectually lazy men. There are countless of Christians who are lukewarm—unmoved to purse the Scriptures. In the comments to Andy’s post there were many responses about how important our Bibles are, how moms can’t afford to not strengthen themselves in the Word of God, how it’s all too easy for young women to give themselves a pass on not reading their Bibles but waste their time on Facebook, etc. etc. I agree. If a woman (or a man for that matter–although details may differ) has time to be on Facebook, research whatever the faddish diet of the day is, spend time on Pinterest and pour over which veggie combination works best to detox the kidneys, then please at least be honest that your issue isn’t that you don’t have time to read the Word of God.
See, I can write these things all day long. I can pour on the semi–sarcastic remarks and spread chastisement on my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ nice and thick—like cream cheese frosting on carrot cake.
I have lived a life of heavy chastisement. Chastisement is one of the chief ways of discipline the Middle Eastern culture uses in raising children. That is how I was raised. I have chastised my children to excess, especially my oldest. I have chastised sisters in Christ for all sorts of things. I have chastised my husband. And I have been drawn to writers, teachers, and pastors whose tone is chastising, in order to spur me on to be more “godly.” Chastisement was the law of my tongue.
Psalm 103:8–14 says:
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame, he remember that we are dust.
Does the Bible speak about the Lord disciplining us like sons, sometimes chastising us and rebuking us? Yes absolutely it does. But that is not the complete character of our God. We do not serve Allah, the angry God who punishes man. We serve a Triune God whose general and special revelation of himself should give us a wider, deeper and more complex understanding of his nature. He is the kind of God that came down and became a man. A flesh and blood man. He didn’t sit up in heaven and chastise his people until they got their act together. This is what God did for us:
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus bore the chastisement that was ours. Our iniquities were laid on him. Friend do you see that we all deserved the biggest chastisement from the hand of God and instead our heavenly compassionate Father took it upon himself, he took all the verbal beatings. Jesus took all the chastisement of the whole world. Remember that next time you want to chastise someone.
How does the gospel help us sort these things out? How do we filter chastisement through the gospel?
First and foremost, if there is a rebuke that is truly required, let that be done with the love of Christ. As Paul says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1–2) So stronger brothers and sisters have as their aim the restoration of their brethren through a spirit of gentleness and on their guard for temptation. Bearing one another’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ.
I have chastised women for not reading their Bibles. I don’t think it ever went anywhere. It surely didn’t bear any righteous fruit, not that I can tell. It’s obvious that I can’t motivate anyone by chastising them. How does that help them see the love of Jesus and inspire them to learn more about him? I don’t want to chastise women for not reading their Bibles. And if I ever do it again, I pray it is only because I have a personal relationship with someone and I can do so from a humble and gentle spirit. It is a matter of wisdom and seeking the Lord.
Dear sisters if you are faithful in pursuing God with all your mind, remember that it is by the grace of Christ. Remember when you miss your devotions or your reading time or your study time and have compassion on your sisters in Christ. Come alongside and encourage, exhort, rebuke those you know well with a gentle and humble spirit. Pray. Pray for those whom you are concerned about. Pray that they see the glory of Jesus. Pray that the Holy Spirit will awaken their desires and priorities to thirst and hunger after the living God. This is the gospel way. Open your mouth with wisdom and let the teaching of kindness by on your tongue.
One last thought: This is an area that requires wisdom and diligence from pastors. Pastors, may I gently exhort you as my brothers in Christ to encourage and exhort the women in your congregation to not only read their Bibles but to chase after God in order to love him with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind? Being mindful to be shepherds who speak with intelligence, temperance and kindness, encourage the women in your church to pursue a vibrant life of the mind. And let that pursuit be more than just books on how to be a better wife and mother, as important as those things are. After all, the goal of God in the soul of Christian men and women is to conform us to the image of Christ. Bless you for your faithfulness!