On edification and coercion, even loving coercion, and when coercion fails

Upon further reflection, there are many circumstances involving coercion where it can or should be edifying, but again, whether or not it is depends upon the recipient: their attitude and their humility, their honesty with others and their honesty with themselves, their teachability and their childlikeness.

When legitimate coercion fails, it can result in righteous anger on the one side and deserved punishment on the other, and sometimes one without the other.

One example is being pulled over by a police officer in a patrol car.

Another is being caught in a lie, either by Mom about the missing contents of the cookie jar or by an attorney about statements made on the witness stand.

More examples abound.

While everyone is entitled to hold to their own opinion of the sanctity of anything, whether anyone has a valid argument why every reasonable human will not be obliged to acknowledge it can be taken up with the respective convening authority.

In response to “Love never fails”, that’s not reality in its entirety, but maybe a pipe dream.

When the incorrigible child won’t 'fess up, it’s not Mom’s love that has failed. For criminals, punishment may or may not be edifying.

However, once adopted and having loved in return, always adopted.

Dale, I’m sure you’re well meaning here, but I just can’t get over the word ‘coercion’. Definition: the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats. Synonyms include ‘harassment’ and ‘duress’. And let’s not forget controlling-coercive behaviour, which is classified as abuse. Language matters.


Police officers can be gracious and many if not most are. I can imagine one being lovingly coercive to a young child on a bicycle who was doing something improperly or dangerously. The choice to be edified or not is on the recipient.

And what do you call imprisonment for a serious offense if not coercive. The criminal may or may not reform, be edified. Definitions matter. I don’t think I have forgotten anything (says my senior memory ; - ).

Are not legitimate warnings a kind of coercion? They can be ignored or they can be edifying, changing behavior, including behaviors of the mind.

If friendly persuasion, loving coercion and penal coercion don’t work in this life, why would we think it would be different in the next?

I guess I don’t see legitimate warnings themselves as coercion. A loving parent may warn a child not to step in the fire because of the natural, harmful consequences that will come to the child for doing so. The child then has the freewill to obey the advice (which I see as just the child’s wisdom heeding good and true advice not coercion). If the child disobeys and steps in the fire, well then the parent hasn’t coerced anything…the child experienced the natural consequences of her own actions.


Coercion also includes the threat of consequences. Speed limits are coercive, for example, and we obey (or not ; - ).

But I guess it depends on whether one pictures God Himself as “threatening the consequences which He Himself will carry out” or whether he is just warning of the natural consequences that will follow from one’s own freewill decisions. I guess there are different theologies around this?

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Well, Jesus gives some pretty severe threats in the Gospels (e.g., the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares)!

Yes, I agree that according to Jesus the ultimate consequences for not being in relationship with God are severe. But are these “coercive threats”, or just a truth-telling (and warning) of the natural consequences that will follow if one does not live in relationship with God? If there is truly no life outside of God, God cannot make a square circle and grant life to those who through their own free will refuse to know him. My point is echoing C.S. Lewis’s statement along the lines of “God does not send people to hell, they choose themselves to end up there”.


I think there is room for personal judgement on the part of God as well, though, since he is indeed personal. Persons can be offended, I seem to recall. ; - )

Personally, (considering that Jesus as the best revelation of God’s heart and character that we have), I don’t think God can be “offended” but I think he can certainly be saddened. (Think of the image of the father in the parable of the prodigal son and of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem). And yes, consequences are experienced by people at a personal level—consequences certainly come to disobedient children-- but I don’t see these as coercive acts on the part of God, but as warnings of the natural consequences of estrangement from love and life, for which God is the only ultimate source.

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I’ve read that Jesus was offended by the Pharisees.

I read that the Pharisees were offended by Jesus! :wink:

That too!! :slightly_smiling_face: It cost him his life, but it gave us ours.

We seem to be having contrapuntal conversations. :slightly_smiling_face:

This goes back to a fairly fundamental philosophical question.

Does the end justify the means?

This is not an easy question. But I think this gets more to the heart of the question raised, because the line with “coercion” is too poorly defined – to the point were every action we take can in some sense be seen as coercive in some way.

I think mostly the end does not justify the means. There is a very strong tendency for the means to become the end. But I think this may be an example where absolutes are not entirely helpful. I suspect that using the wrong means even with the best of intentions is perilous to your own soul… like a decent into hell. Perhaps there are some (such as God) who may do such a thing successfully. But for the vast majority this cannot be recommended. (I am reminded of numerous dramas involving police persons working in vice)

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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