A gorilla in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Being bullied is a privilege

The world is full of bullies. If you don’t encounter them every day, I’m sure you know someone who does. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes too. They aren’t just thugs who are after your lunch money anymore. A bully is anyone who uses any kind of intimidation to get what he or she wants. They are in offices and homes and on the street, and they aren’t always physical. Bullies can be passive aggressive too.

So how do you handle bullies when you’re a grown up? If you’re a kid, you’re supposed to be able to go to an authority. But as an adult, sometimes your authority is the bully. What do you do in that case?

A gorilla in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

A gorilla in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 1:28-29.

Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.

The Bible says over and over again that we shouldn’t repay evil for evil, that vengeance belongs to God and not to us. And that’s a tall order, especially if I know a bully is involved and he or she has hurt someone I love. But as followers of Christ, we are commanded to love and forgive people who hurt us, but for a bully, that is just a signal to them that you’ll roll over and take the abuse.

So when I encounter a verse like this that says not to be intimidated in any way, I want to know how that’s going to work. Because it’s easy to say that you won’t be intimidated by someone who’s out to get you, but when you’re face to face with them, and their sole purpose is to frighten you or upset you, they’re probably going to get their way.

I really think it comes down to a choice. You can choose to be intimidated or not. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true. You don’t have to cower or shrink away when a bully is trying to beat you down. You don’t have to fight back either. You can just calmly stand your ground. That’s a choice you can make, and a bully isn’t going to understand it.

You can make that choice because of what the rest of today’s verses tell us. You don’t have to be intimidated because God is behind you, and He’s watching the whole thing. He knows who is in the right. He knows who the aggressor is, and He won’t sit back and let one of His children be mistreated.

If you have the strength to calmly, lovingly stand your ground in the face of intimidation, eventually that person coming after you will get the picture. You won’t break down because you’re relying on Someone stronger, and that Someone will eventually get involved and set things right.

So where do you find the strength to stand up when a bully just wants to beat you down? Look at the second verse listed. You’ve been given the privilege of suffering for Christ.

Suffering for Christ is an honor. Have you ever thought about it that way? Whenever I hear the phrase suffering for Christ, I think of the oppressed and persecuted Christians in Asia and the Middle East. That’s suffering. But being intimidated by a passive-aggressive bully and choosing not to strike back is suffering too. When you choose not to strike back and take the situation into your own hands and trust that God will take care of it, you’re doing that for the glory of God. You’re suffering for Christ.

And that is a privilege. Not everyone gets privileges. That’s why they’re called privileges. I know it doesn’t feel like a privilege when you’re being emotionally raked over the coals, but that’s because our perspective is skewed.

When a bully sets out to tear you down, remember that having the capability to love him or her in return is a gift that God has given you and a privilege you have. If you can look at the opportunity to be bullied as a privilege, you’ll respond to it differently.  You’ll respond to the bully differently.

Who knows why they are the way they are, but there’s always a root cause. People aren’t born bullies.

You’re going to face people who want their own way every day, and some of those people are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want, including trampling over you and anyone else. Stand your ground calmly and lovingly in the name of Christ. Don’t be intimidated in any way by those who would tear you down just so they can get what they want. Love them. Forgive them. But don’t give in to them.

Who knows? Maybe the day will come when they’ll ask you how you got so strong, and then you can tell them. You never know what having a Christ-like attitude will accomplish in your life or in the lives of others around you.

So stand firm. Don’t cower in the face of intimidation. The Big Bad Wolf will eventually run out of breath, and you can face him victoriously, still on your feet with your testimony intact.

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The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living in peace when you’re hurting

Has somebody hurt you? Most likely, the answer is yes. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, people hurt people all the time. It’s an unfortunate fact of living in this broken world.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the church, but the majority of people who have hurt me are Bible-believing Christians. That shouldn’t hurt worse than if a nonbeliever hurt me, but it does. Because you expect more from a Christ-follower.

So how do you deal with life when you’re hurt? Whether it’s a Christian or a non-Christian who hurt you, the answer is the same.

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The moon in the evergreens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 12:17-21.

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Living peacefully among people is a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. With God’s help, we can do anything, but achieving peace with imperfect people is a doozy.

The plain and simple truth is that some people won’t be peaceful, no matter what you do or say. Some people insist on chaos between people, and that is up to them. If that’s the way they choose to live, that’s between them and God. But if you want to live the way God commands, you need to take steps to live at peace with the people around you.

The best way to do that is to live the way God says. Love Him. Love people. Forgive people. Be kind. Be generous. Be faithful. Be reliable. Be the kind of person people can see Christ in.

Will that bring peace between you and everyone you meet? No. Because some people refuse peace, but that’s their choice. Your job is to live your life so everyone can see that you belong to Christ, even when people hurt you.

Don’t drop everything you believe in and attack the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t aim to discredit the people who’ve hurt you. Don’t do everything in your power to hurt them back. Yes, communicate with them. Yes, tell them that they hurt you, give them the chance to reconcile (half the time, I swear people don’t even know the damage their words and actions do). But don’t take it on yourself to set things right because that’s a task too big for you.

We’re puny, weak little humans. We don’t know what right is. The only one who can set things right is God, and it’s up to Him to sort things out in the end. And He will. He’s promised He will. It won’t be in our timing. It won’t be when we want Him to, but He will make it happen.

But in the mean time, ask God for help to forgive the people who’ve hurt you and move on with your life. In my experience, those times when I’ve been hurt so deeply I couldn’t move on were at moments I really needed to. But that could just be me. I’m really, really stubborn, and sometimes God needs to use a 2×4 on me to get me to budge. So it may have been the only way to get me to open my eyes. And in that case, how can I think poorly of the people who hurt me? They’re just as flawed and imperfect as I am. And without what they did to me I wouldn’t be where I am now.

God can take hurt and pain and transform it into something beautiful. He can take the wreck of our lives and make it into something new. Don’t take that precious gift and throw it away just for the temporary satisfaction of hurting someone who hurt you. It’s not worth it. That’s like on step forward and three steps back.

You’re going to get hurt. That’s the way life works. But you don’t have to live in fear of it because God can use it. God can use anything. And when all is said and done, God will set everything right. He sees everything, and He sees the truth.

So let it go. Stop holding on to the hurt. You don’t have to. You’re free to love people, especially the people who hurt you.