Love is always the way

Bullying is something that has gone on for ages, but it just seems like it’s more prevalent nowadays.

That may or may not be true, but I do know that social media has certainly made it more visible to the general public. Social media itself can sometimes be a cesspool where bullying is at the most extreme.

It breaks my heart to see some of these videos that are floating around out there of kids, or even adults, being bullied and harassed.

My first thought is always “How could somebody do this to someone?” And not only how can they do it, but how can they do it AND record it while it’s happening?

Here recently, though, I’ve been having a follow-up thought as well:

“Surely I didn’t participate in this kind of behavior when I was growing up……right?”

The fact is that I don’t specifically remember a time where I bullied someone mercilessly and intentionally, but I’m also sure there were times where I was bullying someone, maybe without even knowing what I was doing. Maybe sometimes when I even did know what I was doing.

Lately, when I hear of these instances or see these videos, I just can’t help but try to think about what that must feel like….To wake up and just dread going somewhere or being around a specific group of people because you’re either afraid of what they might do or say to you or that you’re unable to do anything about it. To feel like you’re all alone.

Like I said before, it’s just heartbreaking.

Admittedly, bullying has never really been something I’ve had to deal with or work through. It happened from time to time growing up through school, but for me they were isolated incidents and I usually dealt with them there in the moment. As old as this may make me seem, it was a different time.

I’m not naive enough to think that’s how it is for everyone. Bullying exists and it’s a problem. And it’s not just a problem that kids deal with either. There are adults around us all, maybe even some of you who are reading this, that have to deal with a form of bullying every day.

It’s one thing to recognize what bullying is and that it’s an issue. But what can we do about it?

I’d like to address three groups of people in order to try and answer that question.

If you are the one being a bully or are a part of a group being a bully……why? That’s probably the first thing you need to ask yourself. Why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve? Is it really worth making another human being feel this way?

Particularly if you claim to be a follower of Jesus and you are bullying someone, which does happen……why? In 1 John 2:9 it says: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”

Jesus was all about love and kindness. If you profess to be a follower of him, it would stand to reason that you should strive to be the same way.

Secondly, if you witness somebody being bullied, lend a helping hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean go flying in there and physically fight off the bully, but it does mean that you can do what you can to stop them.

More importantly, it means making sure that the victim knows that they aren’t alone. That there are people out there who do care about them and who do value them. Sometimes standing up to a bully on behalf of someone else or befriending someone who is “uncool” isn’t the popular thing to do, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Jesus wasn’t about popularity. He did what was right. He healed the sick, ministered to the lost and hung around tax collectors, included women (which was abnormal at the time), gave his time to the poor and unclean. The least we can do is to be a friend, which is easy. And it could end up being one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Finally, I want to speak to those who are being bullied. The simplest comfort I can give is that no matter how much it may seem like it, you are not alone.

There are people who care. There are people who you can reach out to. But most importantly, there is a Heavenly Father who knows you, loves you and created you.

There’s a passage in the New Testament that we call “The Great Commission” where Jesus said his final words before ascending into heaven after his resurrection.

It can be found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those final words are just so encouraging to me. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is always with you and will not leave you.

Bottom line…..respect those around you and treat them according to that respect. It’s easy to be a follower and give in to peer pressure and be a bully. Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader and stand up for and stand with somebody else.

Do the hard thing.

Quick hits: Enter into the peace of God

Just some food for thought heading into this weekend….maybe you’ve got some stressful issues going on in your life right now and you need some encouragement.

Take a look at this passage written by Paul from Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is counter-cultural….and we should be too

Our world today teaches us to be spiteful, negative and many times just downright hateful. That’s why being a follower of Christ is so counter-cultural.

Jesus teaches us to be loving and accepting of all people. That can oftentimes be the hardest thing to do, particularly when those people are not being kind to us in return.

I’ve been going through the gospel of Luke lately, and it’s always interesting to me how different passages that you’ve read before seem to connect with you in ways they previously never had when you read them again.

One passage of particular interest to me of late has been Luke 6:27-38 where Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who had come to hear him speak and to be healed. During that teaching, Jesus spelled out to us how to love our enemies and how that makes us more like God.

“But I say to you who listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Pretty much everything about what Jesus said in this passage goes against what our everyday norm in today’s world has turned into.

How often do you see cordial conversation, much less compassion, being shown between two people who disagree with each other politically? Have you read a comment section of pretty much any news article on Facebook lately? It’s a horrifying place to be. Imagine how difficult it would be to show love toward someone who is bullying you or mistreating you on a daily basis?

Yet, that is one of the many things that makes Jesus so incredible. Following him and putting his ways into practice is rarely the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do.

It’s not difficult to love the people who love you. As Jesus said, anybody can do that. But it is difficult to show love and compassion for people who treat you poorly.

At the end of the day, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior and walk with the Holy Spirit, we all have the ability to learn from what Jesus has taught us in this passage and watch how it will transform our lives.

Do not judge. Do not condemn. Just love. That’s what we’re taught to do, and that’s how we can change the world around us on a daily basis.

Encouraging one another through sin’s deceitfulness

The writer of Hebrews in the the Bible communicates to us a warning against unbelief in Hebrews 3 that I think gives us a good reminder.

We are to rely on other Christians as a source of encouragement, and we are also to encourage other Christians daily as well.

Hebrews 3:12-15 reads:

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. as has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 

We don’t have to go through our daily lives, with all of the different twists, turns and challenges that brings, alone. Not only do we have God to communicate with and to put our full trust in, we also have each other to confide in and to encourage.

The first example that came to mind for me when reading this passage was “small groups” or “discipleship groups” within the church. I think a good way to make sure you have a consistent source of encouragement and accountability in your life is to have a small group of people that help you walk through life.

What does that look like? Form a small, core group (maybe four to six) of people that you go to church with, or maybe a group of Christian friends that may go to a different church, and develop an intentional plan to get into God’s word and have discussions about your daily life and challenges each week.

Having a core group that you can trust will help you be accountable with your actions, encourage you to keep listening to God and what his word tells you and will help shoulder some of the burdens you face throughout your daily life.

Remember to be an encouragement for other believers, as well as rely on other believers to encourage you. And prayerfully consider starting or joining a small group or a discipleship group to help you grow closer with the Lord.