As you may have gathered from the previous post on bullying, the essential element needed to handle this issue biblically is communication. This communication must take place on several fronts—none of which may be neglected.
First, both Sean and his parents must communicate with God. First Thessalonians 5 instructs you to pray continually, and that instruction applies to this situation. Children must be taught how dependent they are upon God; they must be taught how intimately God is involved in every bit of their lives. Thus, when something as upsetting as Jeremy’s bullying of Sean occurs, the first thing that Sean does is to ask God for help and protection. And, if he is praying regularly with his parents about the events of his days, then it will be easier to tell them when he is first bullied. Sean’s parents can bring comfort to Sean, reminding him of God’s continuing care and power. Likewise, they can begin interceding for Sean in prayer, asking God for the wisdom, opportunity, and courage to help their son. Do not underestimate the power of prayer. If prayer for daily concerns is not part of your practice as a family, you are missing life-changing opportunities. You are missing the opportunity to grow in your own relationship with God, and you are missing the opportunity to show your children the value of trusting God for everything they face in life. The Bible teaches that God is ultimately the One who brought about this situation, for Sean’s good and God’s glory. So crying out to God in prayer, right from the beginning, is how God wants Sean and his family to handle this incident of bullying. Praying for Jeremy must also be practiced, not just that Jeremy would stop bullying Sean, but that God would work in Jeremy’s heart to change him.
Bullying is scary, nasty, intimidating, and sometimes dangerous. But Jeremy, or any bully for that matter, is not greater than God. God was not on coffee break when Jeremy began to bully Sean. So the first step is to communicate with God.
The next step is to have thorough and open communication between Sean and his parents. Parents need to learn exactly what happened. This is why I mentioned in a previous post that parents need to work hard to establish a relationship with their children that allows for free and open communication. Sean needs to be able to convey the particulars of what happened, as well as telling his parents his fears and concerns. The goal is to have a safe place for children to express their fears and concerns, and these underlying fears must also be addressed.
After this discussion with Sean, his parents must help Sean take the next step. If Sean were being bullied by someone in his own class and it was pretty much limited to individual interaction between Sean and the bully, focusing on returning good for evil might be a good solution. But in this case, Jeremy is older, not just in years, but also in social status. Sean doesn’t have regular contact with Jeremy apart from the bullying. So in this i case, the parents are going to need to get involved to help Sean. This help may take a number of different directions. It would be good to talk with his teachers and other appropriate officials at the school. Sean needs to have a game plan to follow when the bullying occurs. If the situation is not quickly resolved, in some school settings it might be possible to talk directly with Jeremy’s parents. If this is a Christian school setting this option should be available. If it is not, this approach may be more challenging, but it should be pursued if at all possible.
In any event, Sean’s parents will want to maintain communication with school officials about what is happening. If there are others in the school that know Sean, it may be good to have them help as well. Perhaps one of these friends will have a direct connection with Jeremy through an older sibling. If so, help can be attained in this way. There may be other options. Persistent prayer is essential; keep asking God for help and protection.
Wisdom and discernment are needed. There are some bullying situations that, if not addressed, can turn truly ugly and dangerous. You don’t want to allow your children to go through these situations in loneliness and fear. A constant pattern of communication with God, between Sean and his parents, and between his parents and school officials must take place. Much is at stake. While you pray for wisdom, you must be discerning to know if your child faces physical danger or devastating verbal assaults from cruel children who are not accustomed to being concerned for the welfare of others.
The goal for Christians in bullying situations is not just to make the situation “go away” or to get even. The goal here, as in all things, is to bring honor and glory to God. These are the goals that God promises to bless. Second Corinthians 10 says that we must use different weapons than the ones the world uses. We can take comfort that the weapons of the Spirit are more powerful than the weapons used by our enemies.
Bullying is a serious problem. But it is not a problem beyond God’s authority and control. Passages like First Corinthians 13, Romans 12:17-21, the Beatitudes, Romans 8:28, I Peter 2:13-25, and Galatians 5:22-23 all teach valuable principles to help deal with bullying. These passages provide divine power to combat bullying.
There are many possibilities regarding how the situation with Sean could have evolved. There are also many different bullying scenarios that you or your children might face. Sean’s story is an attempt to begin to think how these situations can be viewed from a biblical perspective. If you have further thoughts or considerations please leave a comment or question. I pray this series has been helpful to you.