Bullying: the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.
As a culture we are more informed about bullying than ever before. What causes it. How to prevent it. Symptoms. Statistics. There’s even a government website about bullying. We’ve learned that bullies can be found in every segment of society. On playgrounds, on sports teams, online. They do not respect one political party over another. They surface in kindergarten classes as well as the world stage. They take the form of Islamic extremists who want to kill everyone who differs with their faith and social activists who try to shut down anyone who not only disagrees with their agenda but doesn’t support it wholeheartedly.
With all the awareness directed toward bullying, you would think it might be diminishing. I believe the opposite is happening. And clearly, Christians are being targeted more and more. As Philip Jenkins of Baylor puts it, Christianity forms the “last acceptable prejudice” in American life. What Christians in other countries (and other centuries) have suffered for a long time, has begun to rise here in a full-fledged assault on what we believe.
The question for us lies in how to respond. If an onslaught is brewing, how do we prepare? One response might be to whine about it. Take on a victim mentality and retreat into isolation. Another reaction is to fight back…to seek revenge by bullying the bullies. In essence, becoming like them. A third course of action is to compromise our beliefs enough to get the bullies off our back. We think if we give in a little, maybe they’ll go away, kind of a Chamberlin-type approach in how he dealt with Hitler. I do not find comfort in any of these approaches. But there is another possibility. A biblical one….
This approach requires confidence in our identity as a Christ-follower. Unless we know Jesus and possess his inner strength—strength that’s not dependent on what others say about us—we will gravitate toward one of the other reactions. Underlying every bully lurks a cavern of insecurity. That’s why bullies feel such compulsion to force others to think like them. As authentic Christians, we have no need to coerce others into being like us. We can let the love of Jesus shine…no matter how hard the slap might be.