As Eric Johnson approached my 5th grade lunch table I knew very clearly what he was coming for. In fact I had gotten so used to him taking my milk money that I knew not to even dare buy milk for lunch. Back in the 80’s the term bullying had not come into play like we know that word today. Since then, Eric and I have grown up and moved on with life, more or less forgetting about what took place at Pineloch Elementary. Nevertheless, bullying is alive & well. It even happens in the church. As I look back at my years in church life, I have seen several people who have been what I would call ‘spiritually bullied’. You may ask ‘what does that look like in the modern day church’, and ‘what are some signs we should look for?’
The same way Eric did in my elementary school cafeteria, most bullies look for people who are vulnerable and somewhat different. As a 5th grader who struggled with learning disabilities & speech issues, I looked very different to others. In fact, I sat with a small group of students who weren’t mainstreamed with the other students. My crew was an easy target for Eric. Although there are lots of great churches in America, spiritual bullying is happening too often in many of them. In todays modern church there isn’t a lot of room for people who look different. What tends to happen to these people who look, speak or present them selves differently is that they’re pointed out & marginalized. You may ask, ‘what evidence do you have of this?’ Take the youth for instance. Many of our churches are having a very hard time attracting young adults. I think if you were to ask many young adults ‘why they don’t attend church’ the common response is usually that they find us judgmental and dogmatic in our approach to win them. We can even see spiritual bullying in how we treat our pastors. It is widely known that 1500 pastors walk away from ministry annually. Although there are lots of reasons why pastors may be asked to leave or resign their positions, its usually based on their personality preference. We all know that once a group of people in a particular church starts pointing out character flaws (which we all have) it doesn’t take long for the leader to be bullied out of their role.
Yes, even Jesus was spiritually bullied. For example, take a look at any new testament scripture that attaches the name of Jesus and Pharisees together and it won’t take you long to figure out that they not only disliked Jesus personally, but they also attached scripture to their reasoning for not liking him. What tends to happen in spiritual bullying circles is scripture is used to justify the bullying. Many believers who take the Bible literally find it very convenient to use scripture to justify their bullying behavior. Although I believe in the inerrancy of scripture, the Bible’s purpose is not for saints to bully someone to believe in the way that we think. In fact, Jesus was very understanding even with his disciples in helping them along the way to believing.
After we have identified and attached our Biblical interpretation to what’s wrong with the person, we label them. There are tons of examples of Christians that have been labeled with names other than Christ follower. I was personally disappointed recently when I learned of an influential leader who had a slip of the tongue. Nevertheless, she was labeled as a heretic. I don’t know about you but there have been several times that I have slipped in saying something. I am so thankful that no one had a camera phone out to record it. In modern day times it has become a lot easier to spiritual bully someone behind our smart phones & various technological devices.
Finally, after we spiritually bully someone, it doesn’t take to long for us to modern day crucify them. This is done way to often to separate ourselves from people that Christ has called for us to love. As Christ followers we need to be careful in crucifying someone. Remember, the ‘cross’ has already been vacated by the one who forgives and heals all sin and short comings. We should all remember James 3:10 “10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.