“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9 (NIV).
When I reminisce about my childhood, it seems like a much safer time than the world we are raising children in today. Part of it probably had to do with lack of electronic devices that allow a person to stay connected 24/7. Another aspect could be that families, although busy, didn’t seem so disconnected from each other. More families ate dinner together and whole neighborhoods and communities helped each other out to raise the children. When I was in elementary school, I knew that if I misbehaved at church, not only would it get back to my parents and I would have consequences waiting for me at home, but I knew that another parent would lovingly step up and stop the behavior right then. I wasn’t afraid of being mistreated, but I knew that obedience was expected and people were watching.
If there was a problem with someone at school harassing you, it usually didn’t follow you home. More than likely, the person bullying you had parents who monitored his actions at night. There was no Facebook, Youtube videos, or instant messaging for him to post videos or derogatory statements about you that would “go viral.” You were given a break and a chance to reconnect with people who loved and supported you before heading out again the next morning to face the offender. The bullying probably didn’t reach much further than you and your group of friends, certainly not outside your school or community.
When thinking about the pressures that our children face in today’s society, I can’t help but think how Jesus would respond if He were alive today. How would He handle the pressures that our kids face? How would He respond if He were the parent of a child who was bullied…or the one who was bullying?
If you read in His Word, it’s very clear Jesus is all about love. He was loving in all His actions toward everyone. He hated the sin, but embraced the human being. He always responded to hatred, ignorance, and disregard with love. He did not tolerate evil, but instead chose to lovingly point the individual who was committing the sinful act toward repentance; never with judgment or criticism but always with a feeling of acceptance, regardless of the choice the individual made.
What would that look like in today’s society, using bullying as an example? I think as parents of a child who is being bullied, after ensuring the safety of our child, we should set an example by praying for the bully. Jesus was the perfect example of this. While hanging on the cross for crimes He didn’t commit, He brought His bullies before His Father and asked God to forgive them for their actions.
The next step, equally important to bringing the offender before God and asking for Him to intervene in the situation, would be to show kindness instead of retaliation. This step is much harder than spouting off a quick prayer and then going about your own business. This step requires action but follows the example Jesus showed. I’m not saying put your child in danger, but instead of matching bullying behavior for bullying behavior by posting your own Facebook messages, YouTube videos, etc., purposefully choosing to walk away from those types of behaviors speaks just as loudly as “an eye for an eye.” Defending the offender if he is being mistreated with a simple word, choosing not to engage in ridicule that others might be instigating, or actually speaking a kind word in defense of the accused all are subtle but powerful ways to show how being a Christ follower makes a difference in your life. Not easy, by any means, but definitely effective.
I just used bullying as an example but the same principles hold true for whatever situation you find yourself facing. And it doesn’t have to be your child who is facing the traumatic circumstance. It could be something you are dealing with at church (churches are not immune to conflict), at work, in your community, or with the parents of some of your kids’ peers.
I want to challenge all of us today. When we face life’s difficulties (and it’s not a matter of “if” but “when”), how are we going to handle them? If we imperfectly put into practice Jesus’ perfect example, think for a minute what that would actually mean. It could mean the difference of where someone spends eternity. Your response could determine whether that person eventually sees Jesus for the Redeemer He ultimately is or could lump you into the category of everyone else, not noticing a difference in your life and your actions despite the fact you call yourself a follower of Christ. A response like Jesus could turn a person toward a Savior and a worldly response could ultimately turn them away.
I feel privileged to have the chance to study Jesus’ life in the Bible and how He responded to situations that He faced many years ago but are still occurring today. When God describes in the Bible that Jesus knew temptations as we do, yet did not sin, it reassures me when I go to Him with my problems, He really does understand what I’m going through. He experienced that and much more. So, when He asks me to respond in love, He’s not asking me to do anything He wasn’t willing to do for me. When I look at it that way, what other way can I respond but to follow His great example of love?
Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell