Thursday, June 02, 2016

Carrots & Sticks
The other day I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend I had fallen out of touch with. We were discussing something that God had been doing in my life that was not only good for me, but also very pleasant. My friend, although not a believer, noted that dynamic.

Without thinking about it, I heard my self responding that “God usually leads with a carrot instead of a stick.” Later that day I started thinking about that phrase and realized that, in spite of my self, I had stumbled onto something. Scripture repeatedly illustrates how God prefers to use love, rather than punishment, to move us from destructive to productive behavior.

Let’s start in Proverbs. In Proverbs 8 lady wisdom addresses the simple and foolish. Rather than scolding them, she offers fellowship and a rich meal. Proverbs 8:1-11,  Proverbs 8:32-34, Proverbs 9:1-6

We see the same thing in Isaiah 55 and Isaiah 58:6-12. God  responds to those who reject  or misunderstand Him with loving invitation instead of punishment.

That continues in the New Testament. In Luke 15 Jesus uses multiple parables to explain that God lovingly reaches out to those who are off track. In Acts 9:1-19 Jesus reaches out in love to correct one who had been actively opposing Him and hurting His followers. In Revelation 3:14-23 Jesus offers His fellowship as an incentive for errant followers to correct their behavior. See particularly Revelation 3:20.  

That’s not to say that those who refuse God’s graceful response to sin are not eventually punished; scripture contains plenty of examples of that too. But that only happens after those folks reject His efforts to attract them into what is best for them (and others). God always leads with the carrot, and only brings out the stick if He has to.