Bullying has been much in the news lately. In January, 2010, fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince of Massachusetts hung herself after incessant bullying by girls at school.
The bullying continued even after Phoebe's death … this time taking the form of crude comments on a Facebook memorial page.
Are you a spiritual bully?
It has been said that the most dangerous kind of darkness is that which masquerades as light.
Unfortunately, the pews of Baptist churches are sometimes anchored by bullies who pretend to be angelic, but when the mask slips, it is revealed that they bear a closer resemblance to the opposite of a heavenly being.
It doesn't happen every day or even every week in any one Baptist church -- or church of any or no denomination -- but when it does happen, the effects of "spiritual" bullying are potentially devastating.
Baptist bullies take many forms and are not always easy to pinpoint. As a rule of thumb, you know you are dealing with a bully when an individual invariably takes the "my way or we don't play" approach regardless of the situation.
And when crossed -- whether in large matters or small -- their first response is to become by turns insolent, fierce, sullen, angry, aggressive, abusive, and unreasonably demanding.
All of which is conduct unbecoming a Christian.
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. ~Ephesians 4:31
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. ~James 3:17
There are many variations on the bully theme. Some bullies operate sporadically, in a subtle fashion, offsetting their selfish machinations with a pseudo-friendliness. Others are relentless and positively predatory.
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? ~James 3:11
A bully can be the "hyper-spiritual" person who shouts and stomps and runs the aisles "praising the Lord" during church, but who spreads self-serving gossip and hurtful rumors before and after services.
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. ~James 1:26
A bully can be the married person in church leadership who forms an inappropriate attachment to a single (or married) person in the congregation, then broadcasts the information with no apparent shame or remorse, carelessly disregarding the reputation of the innocent party.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. ~Colossians 3:8
A bully may be the married woman -- or man -- who approaches another married (or single) church member and makes a brazen pass.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. ~Ephesians 5:25
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. ~Titus 2:4-5
A more sly bully may be the man -- married or single -- who, under the guise of "fellowship," allows himself the liberty of hugging, patting, rubbing, and touching women and girls.
Abstain from all appearance of evil. ~I Thessalonians 5:22
If it were done in the workplace, a sexual harassment grievance would be (justifiably) filed. A lawsuit may even ensue.
But in church, it seems that many women have been programmed to keep still and take what the men dish out. Too-passive husbands often play an unwitting role by being unwilling to confront the offending male.
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. ~Matthew 18:15
A bully may take the form of that one who sings loudest in the choir but is the first to boss, browbeat, badger and berate a brother or sister in Christ who does not immediately and fully do as they are commanded.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. ~Luke 6:45
A bully may be that young person who, perhaps because they have been spoiled and indulged by their parents, demonstrates little or no respect in their behavior toward older church members.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. ~Proverbs 20:11
A bully can be the pastor himself if, when confronted with a serious problem that involves one of his family members or a favorite, becomes defensive, accusatory, belligerent, intimidating, indignant, dismissive, provocative and disingenuous.
He shifts the blame and twists the truth to take the heat off the one or ones he is protecting. In so doing he willfully declines to deal with the issues at hand.
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. ~Titus 1:6-9
A bully can be any church member who openly judges other church members based on a perceived lack of "loyalty" to the church, its pastor, or his family.
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. ~Romans 13:8
Beware of anyone who demands your unconditional loyalty to an institution or particular body of believers, no matter how good or how vital that institution or body.
The loyalty of a Christian is to Christ and consequently to the truth contained in the Word of God. There is no higher calling and certainly no man-made directive that takes precedence over loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. ~John 17:17
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? ~Micah 6:8
All Scripture quoted and referenced in this article is from the King James Bible.
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