Understanding the Difference Between Justice and Discipline

Author: 
Dennis McCallum

Justice and discipline in love aren't the same thing; they aren't even similar! Christians need to keep crystal clear in their thinking on this issue, lest we portray God as judging Christians.

Justice Compared to Discipline
Justice Discipline
Because of his justice, God will pay back evil with punishment that fits the crime. This is the doctrine of Hell. Likewise, justice rewards good. Under discipline, there is no matching of given behavior with a corresponding punishment or reward. Instead, the thought is what will benefit the recipient.
All human beings fall short of the minimum standard of good under God's justice. They are all deserving of judgment. Christians believe that judgment was carried out on Christ. Under discipline, the recipient is the object of love. Since the goal is the betterment of the recipient, discipline is related to conditions in the person's life, not to acts of wrongdoing per se.
Justice looks to the past to ascertain whether the punishment fits the crime. Discipline looks toward the future to determine whether the actions will help the recipient improve.
Justice cannot refuse to punish one who deserves it. Discipline is free to react to any action on the part of the recipient in the way which will be most beneficial. This could include doing nothing in some situations.
Justice would never act to punish one who has done no wrong. Discipline will bring suffering into the life of one who has done no particular wrong. The larger picture of the development of the person's life means breaking may be necessary even though there have been no outstanding problems lately.