Time-Out or Restoration

January 20, 2016

I’ve been reading through the laws given to Moses for the Israelites. God is very clear when a law is broken, what the punishment should be: Do not steal; pay back seven times. Do not murder; stone him. If you don’t honor the Sabbath…the land will get its rest and so will you.

As I read, I noticed the Israelites had no jails. Why? The punishment rectified the situation. The victim was restored (except in the case of murder). I can’t tell you that I understand all of the punishments…That part where a woman is raped and she is then given to the man as his wife doesn’t sit well with me…But I saw restoration, not separation. The criminal was restored to citizenship (unless he was stoned, of course, he couldn’t do that).

Because I have pain in my hands, I avoid corporeal punishment (it hurts me, too much). I have resorted to ‘time-out.’ It doesn’t work. The child sits, stews, and thinks of more ways to disobey, or resents me as his authority. Is that what happens in jail, too?

Doesn’t it bother you that society’s solution for people who cannot conform to a standard of decency is to put them away where we can’t see them? Instead of making them pay for their crime, they plan more. The victim pays twice.

Does anyone want a pervert planning his evil, living beside their children? No, but if he’s paid for his crime, he should be restored to citizen status, not followed for the rest of his life with a tag on his back. Pay for the crime. Not labeled forever. If people don’t feel safe when they are near, maybe harder penalties are in order.

Most of my rules at home are not life-shattering…eat at the table, don’t jump on the bed, but some are for their safety. One boy isn’t allowed in certain rooms: he touches things that can harm him, he takes things that aren’t his, the other boys have a place where they won’t be bothered. If I put him in a box, he’d still find something wrong to do. He has boundaries that enable him to live ‘at peace’ with the rest of the family. That is not the same as time-out. 

Consider the dynamics of a classroom with thirty children and a teacher unable to use corporeal punishment. If I were a teacher, I’d be running to the time-out chair myself!

I can understand the idea of a jail…put him there and I’ll be safe. My job is done. The criminal can be forgotten. No repentance is needed.

When we don’t know what to do, we separate the offender. I can relate. It’s frustrating. If I have to discipline my son this minute, then dinner will be late, laundry won’t get done...I’ll be late to my appointment. Discipline requires time; they choose the worst time to disobey. Discipline requires energy; I don’t have any. Discipline demands love; I wonder, sometimes, if I do.

My object in discipline is not ostracizing the boy, but restoration. God said, you stole, pay back—that means get a job, appreciate what it took to make, what you broke; value others.

I don’t understand all of God’s laws. But then, I’m not God.

But corporeal punishment allows them to pay for their crime, repent, and then know they are forgiven. They are restored.

My God is a God of restoration. He wants the criminal to be restored to citizen status. He wants my way-ward son restored to function as a son. God went to the cross to restore us as His sons.

What are you willing to do to restore your disobedient son to follow the rules?

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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