Before we return to Sean’s story, let’s take a look at the biblical perspective regarding Sean and his family. There are certain principles that must be referenced, and one goal that must be foremost in responding to this situation. The goal, of course, is that God must be honored in the way Sean and his family respond. This is true for all of life and particularly true in this case. Having reaffirmed this most important of all responsibilities, it is then appropriate to consider which principles apply regarding the bullying that is being inflicted on Sean.
The first thing to consider is that Jeremy’s bullying is not beyond God’s control. God is not powerless to stop the bullying. God is intimately involved in Sean’s life. His purpose in this hardship is to bring Sean closer to himself (Hebrews 12:5-11; Romans 8:28-29). This bullying is not a random occurrence in Sean’s life that God has somehow overlooked. Thus, even in this painfully unfair treatment, God is able to bring blessing and comfort to Sean. Seeking God in prayer and asking for wisdom to deal with this situation in a way that honors God and helps Sean is essential.
The next consideration is the responsibility of Sean’s parents to care for him and to provide loving, protective oversight in his life. Ephesians 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:4-7 teach the importance of parental involvement in children’s lives. God and his Ways are to be taught to children at every opportunity. Specifically, these verses mean that wherever they go and whatever they do, children are to be made aware of how God is involved in the moment—and how they can serve God at every opportunity. Parents must know what their children are involved in during each part of their day. The direct implication of these passages is that even when parents are not with their children all of the time, they are still responsible to care for them spiritually. For younger children, up to approximately age twelve, this means parents should know the specific events that their children face each day. As children mature into the teenage years, the responsibility for spiritual care and oversight shifts more and more to the child, until they are ready to leave home. If parents choose to delegate some of their primary oversight to others, for example, a school situation, the parent still has the obligation to know the issues their children face daily. “How?” I hear you ask, “Must I follow them around with a GPS monitor?”. No, of course not. But it does mean that you should nurture a strong relationship with your children so that you can exercise your obligations of oversight and protection. In other words, if a child like Sean is being bullied, the relationship with his parents would be strong enough that Sean would be in immediate communication with his parents about the bullying, from the first time if occurred. In order to obey the directives of Ephesians 6 and Deuteronomy 6, parents must clearly understand the events of their younger children’s days. Furthermore, children should know that if they go quickly to their parents when things don’t go well or things are different than they expected, their parents will hear them and work to solve the problem. This is key to having a strong, trusting relationship with children.
The next principle is one that must be carefully and wisely applied. It is one that will change in application as children grow older. This is the principle of returning good for evil. For young children, returning good for evil may simply mean doing whatever it takes to remove them from a situation of physical and/or spiritual danger. For example, a six-year-old, if at all possible, should not be placed in a situation where he has to deal with dangerous physical bullying from kids twice his age simply because he is of a different ethnic background. But as children grow older and begin the maturation process, learning to return good for evil, in situations where it is appropriate, is part of growing as a Christian. As I said, this is a principle that must be applied wisely and carefully, but it must not be overlooked.
The last principle is this: realize that we live in a wicked world. It is naïve to think that if one just shows love to others and minds his own business, that no one will bully him. It is equally naïve to think that taking martial arts classes or lifting weights will eliminate issues with bullying. Much bullying is verbal and crafty in its delivery. So just as with sexual temptation, it is not a matter of whether or not bullying will occur. It will. It is merely a matter of when. Parents should also be aware that there are situations in which bullying crosses the line into criminal activity. Being aware of where this line exists is important. It would be wise to talk with a Christian in law enforcement who can help you understand the laws of your community and state with regard to bullying.
More could be said, but this forms a biblical base for dealing with bullying. Upon these principles we can begin to construct a biblical response to bullying that will help Sean and his family, and will bring honor to God. We will look at this in the next post. Please let me know your thoughts.