We have all known someone who was bullied in school.
Maybe it was that person who was too smart. Maybe it was that person who was too fat. Maybe it was that person who didn’t fit in with everyone else. Maybe it was the person who, sadly, was bullied simply because of their sexuality.
In some way or another, we have all known someone who was bullied.
Maybe it was you. In fact, it was me.
Throughout my childhood, I was bullied. It is something that, I believe, many turned a blind eye to, or ignored all together in order not to be bullied as well. As a friend of mine recently put it, I had a concern for things beyond just West Virginia, was smart, and was interested in politics. It was a recipe for bullying.
Here are just some of the ways that I was bullied:
- I received a sprained ankle when pushed from the bleachers at my junior high gym.
- I was pushed down stairs in the hallway.
- I was called names: Fat (OK, mostly true) and gay (not true).
- I had clothing thrown into piles of human feces.
- I was rooted against by my peers in athletic and academic competitions.
I am still haunted today by what was a consistent period of intense bullying that stretched from elementary school through some of high school. I can still hear the names I was called in my head. It is part of the reason why never going to back to West Virginia, except for only Morgantown, was ever a possibility. How do you pastor to people who had no desire to be in relationship with you when they first had the opportunity? It was a question I didn’t know how to answer, other than to love by not being present physically.
Bullying is something that should not be tolerated, and it must be addressed. However, this must not be just a governmental response, though I appreciate the Obama Administration taking the lead on this issue. We, in the church, must take a larger role in addressing bullying that goes on in our schools, in our workplaces, and in our homes. We cannot proclaim the love of Christ and ignore this growing problem by saying “it is just what kids do” or “a little taunting has never hurt anyone.”
We must respond.
We must respond by saying that all children – regardless of race, gender, ideals, or any other definition we can imagine – are children of God, created and molded in that image. We must proclaim what true love of neighbor looks like. We must empower our people to stand for the abused and not just overlook issues of abuse that impact a child not just in the moment it occurs, but their entire life.
But, we must be willing to seek repentance and forgiveness. We must repent of our acts of bullying, and we must forgive those who bullied us. This is hard and difficult, but it is required. For any sense of social engagement on this issue must first come from a personal response of how bullying has impacted us, and how the blood of Christ – the grace of Christ – can reach those hurts, or forgive our sins.
It is time for this country, and the church, to engage the issue of bullying and not just because of an increased effort by the Obama Administration. We must respond because the love of Christ calls us to respond.