It’s time we face the truth: Christians, we do not live like Jesus all the time. And while this is OK, what’s not OK is when we adopt the posture of a bully instead.
Sometimes when we are left to our own devices about how to express our conviction, we can be mean about it. We can stir up a frenzy of social media, cause countless debates and even hurt people. We can speak words that only tear down, but feel great about it because we do so under the guise of speaking the Gospel.
This isn’t sharing the Gospel, however. Burdening people with moral malice is no different than the work of a small-minded bully.
Before I progress any further, it should be stated that hateful Christians are a minority. Not every Christian sounds like a bully. And in today’s society, Christians toss the accusation of being a bully right back at culture, saying culture bullies them into accepting worldly ways.
But this isn’t a discussion of who is truly being bullied or not. This is to say that Christians following Jesus should never have this accusation placed on them. We should know better.
We live in hostile times where it’s possible to express our rage over just about anything. Yet in these times, it’s up to us, as Christians, to be better than the typical response. It’s up to us to rise above the bully mentality, so we can actually make a difference with our beliefs.
Before you let your conviction go unrestrained, consider these few truths about the difference between being a Christian bully and being like Jesus. Let them push you to think twice before letting your mean-spirited bully come out to play.
1. Bullies shut the door in our face. Jesus opens the door for us.
Truth liberates. But oftentimes, people expressing the truth only end up shutting the door of Christianity in people’s faces. Their harsh expression makes it seem as if not everyone is capable of holding it—when in reality, Jesus died so that all people could come to know the truth.
We do the Gospel a disservice when we speak it in such a way that people feel blocked off from the truth, like they can never attain it.
Jesus did the work of letting all people know that truth was available to them. He did this not by being mean with His truth-telling, but rather by being kind with His correction.
We often stumble on that latter part. We believe truth is meant to shock people into obedience. Yet the truth is, if Jesus were unmerciful in His correction of us, many of us wouldn’t have walked through the doors of Christian belief.
So why do we believe it works any different for others?
2. Bullies yell. Jesus recognizes the value in being quiet.
We don’t have to be loud with our truth-telling. Oftentimes when someone gets loud with their expression of truth, all they do is shut people off to rationally listening to what they have to say. The people are instead roused with angry, defensive emotions.
Once one person begins to shout, everyone follows suit.
Yet only bullies express their passion in loud, violent ways. Jesus on the other hand, acknowledges that you don’t have to be a loud spirit to get others to believe in you.
Speaking the Gospel is not a shouting match of who’s the loudest. It’s an act of humility and gentleness.
But the mistake would be in linking gentleness with passivity. Truly, one can be assertive without being loud about it. Let’s all try to explore the different options for asserting truth without letting our anger fly.
3. Bullies draw attention. Jesus directs attention.
Media loves to capitalize on the moments when Christians mess up. Anytime when Christians behave in a way that’s contradictory to their belief, media jumps on it and makes a show of it. And then suddenly, the attention is on us.
But what would it look like if Christians’ media coverage wasn’t so negative?
What if we attracted attention for the right things instead of the petty things like getting mad about some issue in culture?
In my experience, this right attention only happens when we center ourselves on showing people the love of God. Too many people think that God hates them when that’s not true. If any activity of Christianity should be public, then our overcoming of this hurdle should.
Instead of drawing attention to ourselves, let’s work to be selfless like Jesus. Maybe then we would get the right media attention.
4. Bullies believe they’re better. Jesus sees all people the same.
In Luke 18, a Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other people. This is the small-minded mentality of the bully—to see himself as better than others. I confess, there are times in which my expression of truth flows from a prideful belief that I am the person in power, that I am the person with the answers. But Jesus tells us that truth-telling should always be paired with humility.
The reality is, we are not better than others because we possess truth. At the end of the day, we’re all still sinners. We’re all still stuck in the dirt of disingenuous behavior and immoral thinking. The only difference between us and them is that we are being made better—but part of that process involves not seeing ourselves as being better (humility). This is the paradoxical but life-saving way of Jesus.
5. Bullies force others to listen to them. Jesus builds relationships.
Finally, bullies like to be heard. When others aren’t listening to them, they make others listen to them by shoving themselves in people’s faces—even the faces of those they don’t truly know.
When we are solely focused on converting people, we can be like this. We can shove ourselves in people’s faces and unload truth on them without giving a second thought to how they relate with us.
There’s a beauty to people we can miss if we’re simply trying to convert them.
Jesus was never the simple “turn or burn” preacher. He focused on adding value to people’s lives by healing them. He built relationships with people first because He knew that this is what allowed His words to be taken for truth in people’s lives.
What if we did the same? What if we worked to share the Gospel with those we had relational equity with? What if we built truth and legitimacy with people before we tried anything? Then I believe we would sound more like Jesus.
Speaking the truth does not mean we batter people into a holy submission. Truly, truth does not stomp around. It is not loud and ferocious. It doesn’t act out when it doesn’t get its way. And it does not utilize methods of intimidation.
Instead, truth is liberating. In its ideal expression, it would allow people to better encounter God.
As Jesus said, the world will know we are His disciples by our love. It’s time we purge our temptation to bully, and embrace the love Jesus was talking about.