In my community right now there is a ton of emphasis on bullying in our local schools. This has been a real issue across our country as kids, corrupted by Original Sin have found ways to exercise the Old Adam towards other kids in school. This is not a new problem at all however, as we heard about the underlying attitude of it from the Gospel lesson in the three-year lectionary from this past Sunday Mark 9:30-37. The attitude of insecurity and trying to be the greatest by lording over others is a common human attitude, one which does not discriminate between children and adults. After all, bullying is often nothing more than someone building themselves up on top of those that they put underneath them. Bullying is a sinful person trying to be the greatest.
Jesus of course teaches against that. He teaches that the greatest is the least, the servant of all. But far from being just a moral lesson or example (although it is an example), Jesus teaches Himself as the greatest, because He serves with His life, laying it down into the hands of bullies intent on killing Him.
Last night I taught my confirmation class and covered the Fifth Commandment, so naturally bullying came up as a topic. The problem with most methods of dealing with bullying is that they will try to deal with the bully and then build up the bullied in their own self-esteem. I would suggest another way to build up the bullied – that of focusing on Christ.
Jesus knew about bullies. Read the Gospels, Jesus is verbally bullied constantly. If the scribes and pharisees weren’t baiting Him with questions meant to be “gotcha” questions, they were directly assaulting Him with accusations and mockery. Of course, Jesus is bullied to the cross, where verbal and physical bullying take their final toll on Him.
Jesus let Himself be bullied for a purpose. His humiliating laying down of everything that was owed to Him was of course to atone for the world. By being like a lamb led to slaughter at the hands of His Jewish and Roman bullies, He paid the price to pay for the sins of both the bully and bullied alike. That goes for violations of the fifth commandment like hurting and harming your neighbor, but also it paid for the sins of those who just stand by and do nothing while they see another bullied, and that goes for the anger and hatred which builds up in the bullied. Christ submitted to bullying so that those involved in it today could know the forgiveness of their sins.
So when you have kids who are bullies – teach them the Fifth Commandment. Teach them about how to act in defense of others and how to not hurt or harm their neighbor with their words or actions. Teach them how to deal with the anger and vengeful feelings that will automatically come out of a heart still corrupt with Original Sin (read the Psalms for how David dealt with his anger towards those who bullied him). Teach them to enlist the Fourth Commandment authorities to punish those who commit wrongdoing. Teach them mostly however about Jesus, who knew bullying all too well, and underwent the worst of bullying so that our many sins in this life would be forgiven. As we look at our responsibilities in this as a church and as parents, Jesus is the heart and center. He is servant to all – even to the bullies. He is servant to congregations and schools which have fallen short. He is servant to those who find themselves bullied and beat down. He is servant to those who lazily look on and do nothing to help their neighbor. And as He is always faithful to do, Jesus serves by forgiving.