If you’ve been following the news over the past few weeks, you’ve probably read the tragic story of Rebecca Sedwick, the 12-year-old girl who took her life after severe bullying. The South Florida 7th grader had been mercilessly assaulted by as many as 15 other girls, being attacked verbally and seemingly endlessly. After months of abuse, changing schools and trying to develop a new schedule and routine, Rebecca climbed a tower, jumped and took her life in total despair.
I’ve worked with teenagers for over 17 years and nothing breaks my heart more than when a student is overcome by despair. The questions and heartache that are left for others to sort through is overwhelming, and the question of “why” and the blame of “who” become all-consuming thoughts. Why would anyone terrorize a young lady so ruthlessly? Who’s to blame for this? What family dynamics in all these kids are in need of attention? What kind of a home does a child grow up in who would attack a peer to this level? What role or responsibility does social media play in this? Reportedly, one of the suspects in the case had a FB post after the suicide that read, in summary, that she didn’t care that Rebecca had taken her life.
When I look back over my life, I’ve certainly been bullied. And if I’m honest, I’ve also been the bully. It’s so easy to take advantage of someone else who is smaller, slower, weaker, dumber, uglier or less [insert your strongest trait here] than yourself. Bullying is hard-wired into our sin nature, and has become a part of our DNA. It seems so obvious when we see it in young people, but that’s only because we’ve learned how to mask it and make it socially acceptable as adults.
The reality of bullying, however, does not excuse it, nor does it ease the suffering it inflicts. Instead, it reminds us all of two essential truths:
- The world is in desperate need of a Savior.
- The world is in desperate need of Christians, who will live like their Savior.
In John 8, a woman is brought to Jesus who was “caught in the act of adultery.” This was spiritually bullying at its finest. You see, these men through this woman, naked and ashamed, at the feet of Jesus in order to make Jesus authorize her death. Why? The Old Testament Law required that a person caught in the act of adultery should be severely punished. So how was this bullying?
First off, notice what isn’t present in this scene? The guy. If she was “caught” in the act of having sex with someone who wasn’t her husband, where was the guy she was caught with? It is very difficult to commit adultery without an accomplice. These religious leaders didn’t care about having a relationship with God, they cared about rules and regulations. They cared about policies and procedures and they put their religion over relationship (when really, the two work hand in hand!).
Jesus of course, knows precisely what’s going on. So He turns the tables on the bullies. He declares, “Yep, she is guilty. So, whichever one of you guys is without guilt, go ahead and pick up a stone and let her have it!” One by one the bullies realize they are all guilty, so they drop their rocks leaving the woman alone with Jesus. And here’s the catch: Jesus was without sin. Jesus was the only one who had legal authority to cast stones at this woman. And what was His response? Two fold:
- “Where are your accusers?” The bullies have left, they no longer accuse you and neither do I. Jesus offered her forgiveness.
- “Go and sin no more.” Forgiveness isn’t permission to keep sinning (adultery). Jesus rescued her, physically from the bullies, and spiritually, from sin.
In my next post, I want to address the second essential truth, that the world needs Christians who will live like their Savior. But this first truth is foundational: The world needs a Savior! I want bullying to end. I want Rebecca Sedwick’s unnecessary to death to be the last bullying casualty ever. I want parents to step up and guide, caution and punish their children when they bully others. I long for families to experience healing when bullying has struck close to home. I don’t want to spend another day aching for the loss of innocence or the loss of life because of the heartless actions of evil people.
But the only time that world will exist, is when Jesus rules perfectly here on earth. That time is coming, and until then, He must rule in hearts for people to change. He changes people because He can offer them what no one else can: the freedom that comes from forgiveness, and the ability to enter into a personal relationship with God.
I long to be a zealot for that cause. When I speak to the hearts and minds of the 11, 12 and 13-year-old students I work with each week during the summer, I want to convey to them the hope that Jesus offers. I hope that my daily interactions promote hope and healing, not spiritual beating or bullying.
Will you be a conveyor of the hope of Christ? Will you step out of the boat and engage people around you with Jesus? Bullying isn’t going away, but either is Jesus. You can make a difference in one person’s life, by offering them true hope.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!