Jealous Brothers, Giant She-bears, and the Gospel

29 01 2013


Ms. Horowitz’s fourth grade class was probably a typical grade school class. Over 30 nine and ten year-old’s crammed into a classroom with one teacher in charge of instruction and keeping order. On this particular day I was the chosen one. I was chosen to stand at the chalk board and to write the names of my peers on the board when they spoke or disobeyed some other rule. Once their name was on the board they stood in danger of check marks. Three check marks meant the severest punishment possible. One of my female peers just couldn’t help herself. When I wrote her name on the board it seemed to fuel some level of rebellion within her. I gave her one check mark which fueled her stubbornness even more. Then the second check mark came. Then with great boldness I put the third check mark by her name. She was in for it…or so I thought. I was the one who was in for it. Upon receiving her third check mark, she apparently felt like she had nothing to lose. She marched to the front of the room where I was standing at the board. She picked up an eraser completely saturated with white chalk. She walked over to me and lifted her hand which held the eraser and proceeded to slap me directly in the forehead, leaving a cloud of chalk dust in the air and a white square on my forehead. In short, she was a bully and I was the bullied. Being bullied by a girl did not impress my peers to say the least.

Being bullied is no small thing. It leaves an impression (pun intended). Bullying can take place in many different ways. Harassment, threats, coercion, and name calling are just a few ways bullying takes place. Recently a church member prompted me to do some research on the subject of bullying and more specifically how a Christian should respond to bullying. Below is the letter that I wrote to him with some of my findings.

At the center of our response to bullying is the belief in the sovereignty of God in every circumstance that we face, good or bad. Romans 8:28 says that all things work to the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. As you know, we can trust Him!
Genesis 37 begins to recount the life of Joseph. One could argue that as a teenager Joseph was young and boastful about the dreams that he had concerning his family. However there is no question that his brothers bullied him and then ultimately sold him into slavery. Many years later when he is in a position to get vengeance upon them he chooses to see the bigger picture…God’s picture of what had happened to him and how it all worked out to bring about the plans of God for both he and his family and quite frankly the saving of entire nations. One of the major lessons to be learned from Joseph with regards to bullying is to trust the hand of God and don’t seek vengeance.
One very interesting account of name calling (bullying) that took place is found in 2 Kings 2:23-24. “He (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!’ And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.” This account seems rather extreme at first glance. A grown man, a prophet of God nonetheless, being bullied by a group of young boys. I guess aside from the whole pronouncing a curse on them, I take away from this account the fact that as adults we ought to seek to correct young people who bully us or others as the Lord permits. The response of God to this curse that Elisha pronounces tells us something about how God views such behavior, especially when it comes to His people. Bullying is a serious issue in the eyes of God.
King David is another man in the Bible who we could say was bullied. David was bullied and mistreated by both those in his immediate family and by the King of Israel. His brothers and father seemed to despise him on some level because of his youth and zeal for God. This comes out both in the account of Samuel choosing the next King of Israel. They don’t even call the youngest (David) to the event. They have to call him after God rejects his other brothers. It also comes out in the account of Goliath when David shows up on the battle field. He is definitely bullied by King Saul. David’s righteous response and his faith to trust the sovereign purposes of God is quite impressive. He consistently refuses to raise his sword against the King.
Of course there are New Testament teachings as well. Jesus taught us that we ought to live radically different when it comes to our responses to those who persecute us falsely. We should turn the other cheek when being slapped on one cheek. Our responses to our enemies are some of the best opportunities to show the world the radical love of Jesus Christ. His radical love does turn the other cheek and it goes the extra mile to be kind and loving to those who persecute us. In all of these accounts, God is the hero of the story and it’s the faith of His followers that leads to tremendous parallels with the gospel.
Jesus, Himself, was bullied…grossly and unfairly treated by this world. Throughout His ministry He was mistreated and plotted against by Pharasaical bullies who despised Him. Jesus’ response is the gospel…His humble submission to the scourgings and the cross. When He was spat upon there was no divine retaliation. In the end, we humans ultimately have bullied our Creator and our Creator’s response is absolutely astounding. He loved us bullies so much that He sent His only Son to be the once for all sacrifice for our sin against Him so that we can come to know Him because that’s what He created us for.
So a Christ-centered response to bullying is a tremendous opportunity to exercise faith in God and to demonstrate the Gospel of Christ to those who don’t yet know Him.
Feel free to comment on this subject and/or share some of your experiences whether as a bully or the bullied and what happened.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: