Yesterday, while driving back from a morning shopping and setting up the LEGO Bonsai Tree at my office in Greenville with my 10 year old daughter, we talked about bullies. I explained that I can remember people in my life that have acted like that — bossy, mean, aggressive and hurtful, and asked her if she had too. Her initial, sweet and soft hearted answer was no. She didn’t want to label or call anyone such a thing because she hopes the best for everyone around her. But I knew of a few examples that even she would be aware of — and I explained that acknowledging and discussing “bully behavior” doesn’t mean that we’ve written them off as “that is who they are”, and we were able to discuss and laugh about several examples.
Bullies are “people acting like enemies”, short and simple. And if we are honest with ourselves, we have all done these types of things in our lives and hurt and opposed others and not been perfectly patient, kind, gentle and loving. But the Bible tells us that our enemies are not flesh and blood, but that our battle is spiritual. This does not mean that we are innocent of any and all wrongdoing, but that there truly is an enemy of and a bully of mankind.
Genesis 3 introduces this enemy into the narrative, and we can see that his bullying isn’t just knocking books out of people’s hands, sticking signs on their backs, calling them names, and acting physically aggressive like we might see bullies portrayed in TV shows and movies about school life. No, this enemy is slick and smooth in how he opposes mankind, misleading, manipulating, lying, and confusing. And in Psalm 3, David acknowledges how it feels as a man facing his own son seeking to kill him and the enemies that have been gathered against him.
And Joshua 3 has a wholly different type of enemy revealed. In verse 4, it is revealed that the people need a guide since they have never traveled this way before, and verses 4 and 5 reveal the need to “[keep] a systems” and “purify yourselves” as they could put themselves in danger coming too close to the Ark. The Ark is not an enemy, but staying too far away or straying too close both were a danger. A hard hearted person who hates God may think of God’s striking people dead for accidentally touching the Ark, or leveling whole cities for their sinfulness, or flooding the whole Earth and its inhabitants as a bully and an enemy — but this is how the true enemy twists and manipulates the whole truth to hurt mankind.
We can’t just think of enemies and bullies in the obvious and stereotypical way that we see them portrayed in the movies. Just like my daughter initially dismissed acknowledging any darkness in those around her in her life, when we really get down to examining the topic — we can see that there really is an enemy.
So what do we do about it?
The enemy uses us against each other. The enemy even twists God’s words against people who try to listen to the words God has spoken and follow them like rules, but don’t understand or trust the heart and reason behind those words — like with Eve. If we get too wrapped up in religion without a strong, close personal relationship with God, we will be a devil ourselves, knowing just enough “about what God said” to be used by the enemy to mislead others like Eve. But if we humbly cry out to the Lord God like David, and if we “prepare ourselves” like Joshua urged the people, we can face any enemy.
Christian, it is encouraging to not see enemies/ bullies everywhere, or “find the devil under every rock”, because God is with us and is our shield and our faithful protector. But just like it is good for me to prepare my daughter with discussions about what bully behavior looks like, it is good for us to prepare ourselves with what our Good Father has to tell us and to guide us.
The greatest thing we can do about bullying/enemies?
Know the Lord close, recognize and trust His voice and guidance, and not be filled by the enemy into hurting others.
The second thing?
Acknowledge and admit that we haven’t always gotten this right ourselves, repent, confess to each other our failures, call out to the Lord for help, do our best to not make those same mistakes, and humbly do our best to repair what damage has been done.
When we are truly a friend and a servant to even our bullies/enemies, and when we are humble about what we can do ourselves to clearly show them the love of Christ – walls can come crumbling down and God can do the fighting for us. And He can even change both our hearts and theirs to a place of reconciliation.
God bless, friends!
- Genesis 3
- Psalm 3
- Joshua 3