Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Jesus, Bullies and Me

Our American schools have an incredible anti-bullying campaign running these days. In preschool, children hold out a flat hand and set the other on it vertically to say, "Stop." At older levels they're taught to say, "I don't like what you're doing and I want you to stop." Recently I encountered an adult bully. That's a little trickier, isn't it? (Pssst. It's not you--unless we already had this discussion.)

Jesus dealt with bullies: Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, teachers of the law. They were determined to have their own way, regardless of right, wrong, better or best. At the heart of their behavior was influence.They wanted to feel and look important, but Jesus kept getting in the way.

When they sought to seize [Jesus], they feared the people....  (Matt. 21:46)
And they were seeking to seize [Jesus], and yet they feared the people.... (Mark 12:12)
Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:14)
And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all. (Luke 6:19)
And [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.... (Luke 18:9)
The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people.... (Luke 18:11)
The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on [Jesus] that very hour, and they feared the people.... (Luke 20:19)

In the end, it was envy and jealousy that drove them to have Jesus crucified, For "for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." (John 12:43).

Isn't that why we give in to bullies? We want the approval of men, too. We don't want to make waves or deal with conflict, so we give in and move on. But what if we loved God more? What if we loved Him so much that we loved bullies more than ourselves? In that case, I would not only refuse to give in, I would speak and live truth. "Stop. You're hurting yourself and you're hurting others. I love you too much to let you continue. Did you hear what you just said? Do you see what you're doing?"

That kind of love holds the mirror of God's Word where they can see it. Jesus said it like this:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 22:33-27)

That's not politically correct or warm and fuzzy. It's honest. In his (justified) anger, Jesus did not sin, He loved. He forgivingly chastised and rebuked. By His words and actions, He led them to the cross. He showed them their sin and gave them (one more) opportunity to confess and repent. That should be our greatest desire for those who sin against us--eternal life, eternal forgiveness, eternal blessing.

I can be angry, especially when someone hurts and misleads others. I can speak against their wrong, but in the end, I must love them, be ready to forgive, and willing to lead them to Jesus.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

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