“Just kick her right back—hit her hard in the shins!”
My mom thought that dealing with Liz, the fifth-grade-playground bully, was as easy as that. During that adolescent period, my nights were spent agonizing over facing Liz the next day. She was a living terror and chose me as her personal project. She seemed to get some kind of sick satisfaction every time she pushed me down, kicked me, or ridiculed my “skin and bones” body. She was large, loud, scary, and up to that point, the meanest child I’d ever known. She led a gang of followers and her posse was learning how to inflict additional humiliation as they added their verbal insults to the victims of Liz’s physical torment.
If I could have a conversation now with my ten-year-old-self, I would encourage that skinny little girl to hold her own, to stand up (in spirit, but not with physical punches), and speak out against Liz’s bullying ways. But first, I would have a conversation with my ten-year-old self that I still have with my much older myself today; a conversation about the promise God has for the pure in heart.
The Promise Reserved for the Few
Most of us have moved beyond the fifth-grade-playground bullies, but bullies still abound in our lives. Bullies come in many subtle forms: employers, friends, siblings, maybe even someone in our own home. (Do one or two faces immediately come to mind?) Rather than focusing on the bully, let’s investigate the need of our own hearts when it comes to dealing with a bully.
For me, heart counsel for responding to a bully, starts with this word from Peter:
[box]Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)[/box]
There’s a lot to unpack in this word of counsel, and we won’t get to all of it in this post, but I’ll be pulling apart several of the phrases, so you might want to refer back to the verse as you read this post.
Notice that the verse opens with strong: “Do not . . .” verbiage. This is not a suggestion, but it sounds pretty much like a command. But this command ends with the assurance of a rich promise. The “Do not” is pretty clear and simple: “Do not” return the evil that’s dished out to you. Rather than responding to bullies in the same way they treat you, or with them same fleshly-driven, selfishly motivated treatment, treat your bullies the way you would want to be treated. Sound familiar? (Check out Matthew 7:12.)
Do not repay bullies with the junk they’re dumping on you, but bless them instead.
This is a pretty challenging “Do not.” It doesn’t come naturally to turn around and bless someone who is unkind, works to undermine your reputation, hands you the pink slip, or is continually negative and critical in their assessment of you. But don’t think that I’m advocating lying down as a doormat for bullies to walk over. Let me throw out this thought:
The “blessing” you share with the bully may include loving confrontation, or winsomely holding them accountable for their behavior.
The “blessing” might include a literal blessing: a kind note, flowers on their birthday, a cappuccino from their favorite coffee joint. The “blessing” for your particular bully will be suited to your unique situation—and I’ve found that, when I ask Him, the Father is ready to lead me to the specific blessing He has in mind for the bullies in my life. Sometimes it includes holding a salty grace talk that can lead to an opportunity for building a new relationship with a former “enemy.”
This almost impossible command doesn’t stop with the admonition to bless, but it includes a reminder of your purpose.
“For this you were called” is a phrase that carries monumental significance. It takes us back to our spiritual birth and ultimately to the cross. It reminds us of God’s precious work in redemption, but also of His expectation for His children: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling . . .” (Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).
We are told to bless in order to get a blessing.
“That you may obtain . . .” sounds almost like a reward for good behavior, but rather than thinking of it as a bribe—think of it as a by-product. Getting a blessing shouldn’t be our motive for refraining from dishing out evil, getting a blessing shouldn’t be what drives us to bless others—but getting a blessing is the sweet consequence of a right heart. In fact purity of heart—which is the heart condition that will drive the lifestyle of “not repaying evil with evil” and will provide the willingness to exchange blessing for reviling—is the sweet reward.
Purity of heart is the sweet reward of blessing your enemies. It is not only the means—but it is the blessing!
One of the promises I most treasure from Scripture is this one from Jesus’ first message:
[box]“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)[/box]
This is what the mean girls, the bullies, and the evil-intentioned never experience. The mean girls miss out on “seeing God.” The mean girls may have their day of victory on the playground of life, but what a shallow reward. What a reason for us to have compassion for them—as we consider what they miss out on experiencing.
The promise of “seeing God” sweetly compels me to pursue heart purity. It urges me to seek purity. When I hold up the prospect of experiencing God’s presence in an intimate and personal way and weigh that promise against the shallow reward of vindicating myself or lashing back at a bully . . . there is no comparison!
[box]And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)[/box]
[box]Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart . . . (Ps 24:3–4)[/box]
[box]Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)[/box]
This is my prayer: Father, purify my heart that I might see You, that I might glorify You, that I might walk worthy of You. Let my motive, thoughts, and actions flow from a heart that is purified by You. May I respond to the bully and the “enemy” with a pure heart.
And when You’ve purified my heart and provided me with the grace to respond in grace—let that purity be a signal to the bully that You are real. That You are a forgiving and loving Savior. Let the purity of heart that You provide be a source of revival to the lost world.
Join me in that prayer?
Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net/Clare Bloomfield