What does God say about bullying?
Merriam-Webster defines bullying as: “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.” Why would any of us choose to be abusive? Is this an outward demonstration of our own fear, lack of self-worth, and/or misunderstanding of those we willingly bully? In our society, bullying usually begins with some form of verbal abuse. Merriam-Webster defines abuse as: “language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily.”
Most of the bullying I have witnessed, either personally or through a news outlet, includes anger and the appearance of hatred, 1 Jn 3:15, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” We can recognize bullying by the verbal and non-verbal expressions of the person doing the bullying. Are they calm? Are they smug? Are they using language intended to inform, or rather to shut the other person out of any further discussion or action? What does God tell us about this, Eph 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Is their face exhibiting a friendly attitude or one of hatred, are they being condescending, and/or showing disapproval? Is their body tense and rigid? Are they listening to what the other person is saying, or have they already made up their mind? If we want to know if we are bullying someone, we can step back and evaluate our own actions and appearances, do they align with the teachings of God, Phil 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Do we truly understand the position of the person we are bullying, or have we only been interested in changing their mind, or worse yet, silencing them and/or making them subservient to us and our opinions?
Two of the most intimidating things about bullying are the fear and helplessness it creates. Fear and helplessness are horrendous byproducts of the bullying process. They have led teenagers to commit suicide, driven abused wives to withdraw into a state of depression, and caused a countless number of people to do unthinkable acts. God does not approve of this behavior, 1 Jn 2:9, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” Bullying always demonstrates hatred and always leads to fear.
Our digital society has sparked new ways of bullying. People can go online and bully people they know, complete strangers with opposing ideas, and/or groups they have come to hate. This type of bullying is particularly cowardly. Cowards are not willing to face those they are bullying. The digital coward fears retaliation and/or the risk of being exposed as a bully. It is sad to think that any of us are willing to hide in the shadows and throw stones at others. God tells us we have enough or our own problems to work on and that we should not be throwing stones of judgment, Jn 8:7, “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Bullying is usually manifested by the outward display of a feeling of fear caused by some misunderstanding of another person or group. How does God tell us to treat people when we have these feelings, Matt 5:43-46, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” Does God not tell us to love them? Will, our response of love help us overcome our fear and misunderstanding; and can it lead the other person to the same path?
When we stop fearing other people, we will begin to see that we are all part of God’s creation, and each of us has our own share of faults. The compassion that results will lead us to understand God’s calling to us, 2 Tim 1:17, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” He has given us a sound mind, so we would be able to treat others the way we want to be treated. When we return good for the evil, we imagine in others, does not our love shown to them make them reconsider their own thoughts? We need not agree on all topics, or life choices, however, God asks each of us to love our neighbor, unconditionally. This is at the heart of His commandment to us, Mk 12:31, “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Any other action on our part demonstrates that we are no better than those choosing to hate, with or without cause? God tells us that the behavior demonstrated in bullying is a form of judgment, and it should be left to Him, Matt 7:2, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Can there be any excuse for harming our neighbor, either physically or mentally? Rom 2:1-3, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” Can we imagine we can harm people because we disagree with them or fear them in any way, and have God’s blessing?
What does bullying accomplish? Is it meant to change the behavior of the person being bullied? Is it meant to make the bully feel stronger and more powerful? Does anyone really believe we can change a person’s mind by bullying that person? Or, are we just trying to turn the other person into our personal slave? God is clear on this subject, He wants us to always seek peace, in every situation, if it is possible, Rom 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Is God not asking us to show our strength by helping others, not bullying them? Matt 15:1, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
There is no room for bullying in God’s advice, and there will be no room for bullying in heaven, Gal 5:19-23, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Is God telling us that we will either learn to love, as He does, by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in this life, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” or, we will not see heaven?
Could God be any clearer on this subject, God is not a fan of hatred or bullying.
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