The Road Not Taken: When Love and Discipline Diverge

Robert Frost’s words make up the most well-known poem to come out of the 20th century. “The Road Not Taken” has been the subject of the intense application and misapplication. As two roads come together the speaker is faced with a decision of which road to take with the expectation that he or she will probably never return later to try the other. I have no desire to redefine the Frost’s words to suit my own needs, but dwelling upon the Christian life I cannot help but think how this poem can describe the Christian’s choice when presented with love and discipline.
As is with Frost’s poem of two roads diverging in a wood, the Christian of today is presented with two paths, one of love and the other of discipline, that are supposedly independent and unable to be intertwined. Cultural Christianity indicates that God (and his followers) cannot judge because that is inconsistent with his love. Many know those arguments. However, it’s not just the cultural presentation of God that keeps these points separate. Even the most solid churches seem to present them as a choice, either one or the other. The result is professing Christians who find themselves confused and thus often oscillating between them. Christians are told they can love without discipline or they can discipline without love, but never both. While the former results in compromise, the latter results in confrontation. Those outcomes are quite distressing.
What many people often overlook in Frost’s poem is also overlooked here in the Christian life. The two different paths are really not that different. Robert Frost writes, “And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black . . . “ It was not the paths that made the difference because they were, in fact, equal and neither are love and discipline to be separated. Here’s where we diverge a little bit from Frost’s poem. Love and discipline are not two different paths but instead exist on the same path. The Lord never presents love and discipline as two independent concepts, but a careful reading of the Word shows us that they complement one another because discipline is born out of love.
I’ve had people willing to let me continue in sin out of ‘love.’ I’ve also had people quick to chastise me very harshly and then at the end simply tack on the phrase, ‘But I love you’ without any involvement in my life apart from a harsh critique. Neither is a demonstration of love and neither is a demonstration of discipline. When these two concepts are separated the consequences are catastrophic because neither truly shepherds the body of Christ nor builds it up.
Instead, love and discipline function together. We as Christians often have a hard time putting them together, but if we are to impart the Lord’s forgiving love into the lives of others they must be joined. The Lord Jesus Christ himself exemplified this concept during his earthly ministry. Consumed by a love for God the Father, Jesus was quick to love those around him both. At times he did so with tenderness and at other times with rebuke for sin according to what each situation warranted. None are left questioning Jesus’ loyalties nor do they find themselves doubting His love.
Thus, love and discipline converge to form a union that has the propensity to transform lives. They combine together to construct a people deeply rooted in our Lord, deeply convicted by the word and Spirit of our Lord, and deeply conformed into the image of the Son of our Lord. We cannot continue to see love and discipline as two independent aspects of the Christian life if we expect to see lives revolutionized by the truth. Love and discipline must coexist and be present together.
Photo “The Track Not Taken” courtesy of user Gagan Moorthly and Flickr.