One of the biggest misconceptions that non-Christians have about Christianity is that it is a religion of punishment. They view God as a scary “man in the sky,” who eagerly chastises evildoers with lightning, thunder and plagues. Such a misunderstanding arises from a basic lack of awareness about the role that punishment serves in the Bible. While the Bible certainly teaches that those who don’t belong to God will suffer the eternal consequence of judgment (see 2 Thessalonians 1:8–9), God is primarily portrayed in Scripture not as a powerful enforcer—ready to smite at a moment’s notice—but rather as a loving Father (see John 14:21–23). And like any loving parent, he seeks the best for his children and will discipline them toward that end.
If you were a parent, would you allow a misbehaving child to continue down a path of destructive behavior? Or would you apply judicious discipline in order to help your child learn right from wrong? The Bible tells us that God treats us in much the same manner. The inspiring words of Hebrews 12:5 remind us that God tempers justice with mercy. Do not lose heart, the Bible says, when you are punished by God. Even those that are disciplined are still addressed as children of God and are encouraged to maintain their faith, just as a misbehaving child—when punished by an earthly parent—is still a beloved child.
Taken from NIV Essentials of the Christian Faith