Back in the early nineties when I was still in high school, before bullying even became a major issue, I was a victim of bullying. Now before you start laughing trying to not think about the fact that I just said “early 90s“, I think we all at some point in our lives can relate to the bullying issue. At my best remembrance, I was most likely bullied because I was not the most popular kid. “The jocks”, and “The punks”, we’re the ones that seem to get me the most.
Guys waiting in the corners of hallways on each side until I pass through grabbing me by my hands in my legs and straddling me over a door divider to hurt my genital area. Situations where I couldn’t go to my car after school without a group of five or more wanting to beat me up, or try to damage my car before I left the parking lot. Multiple emotional and physical abuse that I endured, leaving me with the notion that I can truly empathize for those who are being bullied today. With this new generation and it’s seemingly unlimited resources for bullying, many kids and even adults are still feeling the wrath.
I truly worried for my daughter when she gets older. To know that she will easily be a target of bullying, makes my skin crawl and my heart break. But ultimately, how can we truly change the pattern of this way? With so many new organizations and anti-bully rallies, and things all over the country that are focusing on bullying; what role can the church play in this? And better yet, is the church exempt from such an act?
It’s even hard to type….but NO the church isn’t exempt from bullying, in fact, the church isn’t seen as a place where even bullying statistics have been made yet; but it’s presence is still felt among members of Christ’s body. How do you recognize a bully within the church? What’s the reasoning behind their bullying? Does your witness bully others?? To truly understand this within the church, let’s look at bullies around when Jesus walked the earth.
By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll ever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town.
“I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
Luke 12:1-6 The Message
Religious bullies as it was interpreted in Jesus’s day, to be the leaders and Pharisees who challenged Him and muttered their take on the law against Him. Today those people would be considered ones in the church that make God’s house a business venture, a social club, a rhetorical dog-n-pony show; even a home for Pharisitical hypocrites and not a restoration for sinners.
No matter if you attend a mega church or a small town, country church; bullies can be found everywhere. Some of them may be this way due to habits or how they’ve been raised. Some may watch from up close to make sure what happens in God’s house is just like how grandma and grandpa used to run it. Others take a more higher, Pharisitical role shoving their take on scripture down our throats in a non-loving, judgmental way.
Is this truly how Jesus dealt with our mistakes? Our imperfections and lukewarmness?? He verbally shown His displeasure with the graceless Pharisees:
Matthew 12:1-8 NLT
At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Matthew 16:11-12 NLT
“Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
A disciple of Jesus Christ desires to serve out of LOVE, not out of obligation or a feeling of stature. Jesus told the disciples that they were different than the world:
Matthew 20:25-28 NLT
But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The key here that people in the church who come across as bullies need to GIVE THEIR LIVES….yet if your heart is more tuned to prove a point than prove His love….your witness is flawed. Love one another, just as I have loved you… doesn’t mean you run the Sunday worship YOUR WAY. It doesn’t mean the church kitchen is YOURS and the style if worship has to be the only way YOU like! Just because you have been given a blessing of substantial finances and give more than 10% of it to the church doesn’t make YOU call more shots about how the church money is used! Your head is in the wrong game!! It’s not about you and your wants, your traditions, your style and YOUR JESUS!
This is what I believe truly Jesus meant when He said, “…the rulers of this world lord it over their people.” We’re God’s children and His people….not yours. Bullies of His house aren’t going to lead this millennial generation to a loving Jesus this way….His people need to quit hating and bickering over pointless things and JUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER LIKE JESUS!
In my opinion, the greatest example ever given to us have service hood and love is when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Imagine it, Jesus comes into this room seen by so many as a great and wonderful Messiah, the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God. All those who look upon Him, had those deep inner chills, and the tingles upon their skin as they watched in awe each time that He opened His mouth to speak. But in this case, He didn’t speak at all. He quietly came in as all the other disciples were talking amongst themselves, and began to take off His robe. Over on a nearby table was a pitcher of water, & a pail; He reached over and grabbed both and proceeded to go to the head of the table where He then knelt down on His hands and knees and began to unlace the very nasty, dirt-clotted, fecal smelling, sandals of the first disciple, and then the next.
Humility comes in many different shapes and forms. When we think about that night and what Jesus sacrificed with the disciples and washing their feet; was something no one could imagine. The Son of God? Washing the most nastiest part of the human body at that time? And He tells us to do the same?? How does that reciprocate today? This is the part of Jesus Christ that many bullies within the church miss. Because it’s not about the materialistic, the traditional, the “way it’s always been”, what’s sin someone is doing that is the most gossiped about….it is much more then any of that!
Bullies only care about pushing their own agenda, they don’t care about submitting to the agenda of Christ! So I have to say in conclusion to this blog is this: bullies need to be loved. Bullies need to realize that there’s something tragically missing in their hearts. Bullies need to understand that there is a God that love them enough, to also send His Son Jesus for them! Whatever unresolved issues that you have not dealt with in your heart before God and His throne, you need to realize that that is real obedience. That’s admittance and humility is real servanthood. And when you’re ready, there’s thousands of feet that need to be washed and that are dying in this world…. Look beyond your own skin, and give them the real Jesus Christ!