- From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove
What does God say about bullying?
The Bible is a beautiful tapestry, with many threads woven through it, one of those threads being God's directions on how to live together.
Merriam-Webster defines bullying as: “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.” Can any of us believe God would want us to bully others? Bullying is an outward demonstration of our own fear, lack of self-worth, and/or a 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, express 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.” God only wants us to minister grace with our verbal communications. When people look at us, will they see our faces exhibiting grace or hatred, are we being condescending, and/or showing disapproval? Is our body tense and rigid? Are we listening to what the other person is saying, or have we already made up our 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 effects of 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 countless people to do unthinkable acts. Bullying is part of the process of modern-day slavery, the act of forcing someone to do something against their will. God disapproves 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. Bullying comes from the darkness we allow to abide within us. Jesus told us to abide in Him, Jn 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." and He is the light, Jn 8:12, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
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 hate. This type of bullying is particularly cowardly. 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 of our own problems to work on and we should not throw 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.”
Our current civil disorder has, again, shown us that bullying is not always done in secret. However, this kind of bullying requires a crowd of supporters. Hiding behind a crowd when bullying others in public, shows a unique form of a coward. They are willing to do things they would never do without the crowd, like throwing dangerous objects at police officers. Some of us think we have the right to intimidate others; or use the crowd to conceal our criminal acts. However, that is not God's way. God asks us to return good for evil, 1 Pet 3:9, "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." our good response can help open the eyes of the bully and possibly lead them to the truth. This reminds me of a documentary I watched a couple of weeks ago on Romania's Russian occupation at the end of World War II. A pastor, who was imprisoned for fourteen years because of his faith, was beaten every time they caught him praying. One day the guard asked him what he could have left to pray for, given that he had been severely beaten and had lost everything. The blooded kneeling pastor looked up and responded, "I am praying for you." The guard was surprised and stood frozen in reflection for several moments, then slowly closed the cell door and walked away, without beating the pastor. Could that moment, when the guard was allowed to see good overcoming evil, have been the moment he would be drawn to reason with God? This is how God works, always showing His love for us, in the face of our hatred and resistance. Since none of us are perfect, we all need a second chance. God is always working to give it to us, and we never know where it will come from, even prisoners might help us turn away from evil.
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?” God tells us to love them. Will, our response of love, help us overcome our fear and misunderstanding; and can it lead the other person onto the same path?
When we stop fearing other people, we begin to see 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 can come to treat others the way we want to be treated, Lk 6:31, "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." When we return good for the evil we imagine in others, Rom 12:21, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." miracles happen.
We need not agree on all topics or life choices. However, God asks each of us to love our neighbor unconditionally. Each of us needs to have the freedom to come to the truth, without force. 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.” Does any other action on our part demonstrate we are no better than those choosing to hate, with or without cause? God tells us that the behavior shown 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 more powerful? Does anyone really believe we can change a person’s mind by bullying them? Or, are we just trying to turn them into our personal slaves? 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.” God is telling us we will either learn to love, as He does, by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in this life or, we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He is telling us He only wants to live with those who want to live with Him. And, if we choose to live a life in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit, we cannot expect God to let us infect heaven with that very same selfish lifestyle. Let us not fool ourselves, God will not be mocked, Gal 6:7, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Could God be any clearer on this subject, God is not a fan of hatred or bullying.
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