Words are powerful. They can build up and they can tear down. I felt the power of words that can tear down as a seventh grader. From the first day of school, to the last, I was verbally and physically bullied. This young boy tripped me, knocked my books out of my hand, threw things at me, and made me feel very insecure about myself. I talked to the guidance counselor, the principle, my teachers, and my parents. In fact, in one session with my guidance counselor, she called this boy and asked him why he was doing all these things to me. She asked him what I had done to him to cause this type of treatment from him. His response, “nothing”.
This bullying was difficult to endure and made for a miserable seventh grade year. I know I am not the only person to ever have to endure this type of treatment from another. Many people have had to face the scorn of another, and most times it is undeserved In this month’s edition of the Interpreter, a United Methodist Magazine, there was a tremendous article entitled, Bullying Happens in Church. Don’t Ignore It!” The author, Rev. Erik Alsgaard writes, “Bullying is fast becoming a national epidemic in the United States – and churches are not immune as settings where attacks occur…Adult bullying does exist.”
I bring this up because this article really made an impact on me. After I read it, I began to think about all of the times that my words could have been, and probably were, viewed as bullying. How many times have any of us, said words that were unkind and undeserved or engaged in body language where the only intent was to hurt? How many times have we done that in a church setting to another believer, a fellow disciple? How many times have we had to endure those words and actions being directed toward us by another believer, a fellow disciple?
I want to encourage all of us to follow the advice given in the book of James, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20, NIV). The next time you are feeling angry, powerless, or confused, please remember this passage. Let us be slow to speak, first saying what we find good in another. Let us be slow to anger, understanding that we do not know all aspects of any given situation. Let us remember that we are called to be different, that we are called to live a life based on love and grace. Let the grace of God that has been shown to us, be the model that we use when we encounter others. Let us be quick to listen and reluctant to judge. Let this church, this congregation, always be a place of reconciliation, not bullying. So that the unfiltered power, grace, mercy, and love of God is experienced each and every time you set foot on this sacred ground. Let us love others, always and everywhere, the way Jesus first loved us.
Have a great week and I will see you Sunday,