3.16.2010

He Bore the Punishment Due Us


I'm currently reading a gripping biography of abolitionist John Brown entitled "Patriotic Treason." In describing Brown's morals, the author recounts a memorable lesson Brown taught to his oldest son. Wanting to raise him up in the right way, Brown kept a ledger of his son's moral mistakes, as well as of his virtuous moments. At one point, Brown tells his son to come with him to "settle accounts." One by one, he goes over his son's minuses, asking his son if they were fairly recorded. Brown backs out his son's pluses, leaving a total of 25. He takes his son to the family shed, takes a whip (Brown owned a tannery), and asks his son to bend over but not take his shirt off.

Eight lashes Brown administers to his son's back. And, just as his son begins to fight off tears, Brown stops. He hands his son the whip, takes his own shirt off, and tells his son, "I deserve the remaining punishment for failing to instruct you properly." His son protests, but Brown insists. With tears, Brown's son lays the whip on Brown's naked back 17 times, drawing blood and eliciting Brown's exhortation throughout to not hold back. Brown's son recounts this story some 60 years later, remembering every detail.

Whether or not you would attempt the whipping or being whipped in the present day, it is a vivid way to teach a lesson. And I cannot help but think of a Father who provided His own Son to bear the punishment due me. Within decades of Jesus' death, the apostle Paul would have to chide believers in Romans for exploiting their forgiven status in order to sin all the more. He knew, like John Brown, that someone else more virtuous than us bearing the brunt of our transgressions was a far more heart-wrenching thing than for us to bear the brunt ourselves. We should be grateful if we know we will be spared the sting of the punishment we deserve; but the fact that that is true because One more righteous than us bore that punishment should still sting us, and provide us with sufficient instruction and motivation to not go astray.

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