By Hannah Brzozowski
I love watching America's Got Talent. It's one of those shows that is so inspiring and helps you believe in people as they chase their dreams.
There's a common theme in these types of shows. They film a pre-interview before they go on stage. During this time, I feel like the producers ask the contestants:
"What's the most traumatic thing that has happened to you?"
"Ok perfect. Now share that on national television."
I think they do this for a few reasons. One is that it helps them relate to others. The other is because, honestly, it's entertaining. I'm *pretty* sure it's not the healthiest practice in the world, but it's just how it is in reality TV.
One common issue, especially for the kids, is that they're bullied. It could be that they like magic or they have a disability. Whatever it is, SO many of the kids have been bullied. I feel like it's rare to find someone who hasn't been bullied on their way to chase their dreams.
So, it got me thinking, what does the Bible have to say about bullying? Was bullying even a thing until recent years? According to Google's Ngram Viewer, the word "bully" has had a huge uptick in usage in the last few decades.
Then, very quickly, I realized that bullying isn't new! Just the word is. Harassment, intimidation, and mistreatment of other humans is not, by any means, a new invention.
So, without further ado, here are some bullies in the Bible and how God dealt with them.
Saul bullied David.
The first king of Israel, Saul, started out pretty well. He was chosen by God to lead his people. But along the way, he lost his way. He started to be tormented by evil spirits and so he hired David to play music for him.
During one of these times, Saul threw his spear at David. Luckily, he missed and David ran. Can you imagine that? David was just sitting there playing the music that Saul asked him to play and then, out of nowhere, a spear is thrown right at him.
Later on, Saul became obsessed with chasing after David in an attempt to kill him. How did David respond? he had two different chances to kill Saul but instead, he showed mercy to him.
Ultimately, Saul killed himself in battle. David, on the other hand, became King of Israel, was Jesus' great, great (insert a lot of greats) grandfather, and is known throughout the world for his Psalms that he wrote thousands of years ago.
You can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 15-31
Ahab & Jezebel bullied Elijah.
Elijah was a prophet of God who was given the task of speaking for God during King Ahab's reign. This wasn't an easy job to do. Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, were pretty keen on worshipping other gods and doing all sorts of evil in the sight of God.
Elijah challenges their gods' prophets to a duel of sorts. He challenges them to call down fire from heaven to sacrifice a bull. They try and try all day. Now, I'll be honest, Elijah does taunt them and *maybe* does a bit of bullying himself. He says things like "Maybe your gods are in the bathroom" or "Maybe he's asleep". But hey, you got to do what you gotta do sometimes.
Later, Elijah prays just once, after dousing his bull with water. God sends down fire from heaven and consumes the bull, the altar, and the hundreds of prophets of the other gods.
Queen Jezebel is not thrilled. We see in 1 Kings, that Elijah's life is threatened by her. She says that she'll kill him by the following day. When he finds out, he runs away from there. He's depressed and has nothing else to give. God empowers him by speaking to him and giving him rest.
What was the outcome of Jezebel? She's eaten by dogs. What happened to Ahab? He's speared by an arrow and his blood is licked by dogs. Dogs were seen as disgusting creatures in those days. So, not a great death for either of them.
Elijah on the other hand is said to have never died. God took him up into heaven at the end of his ministry - similar to Jesus, himself.
You can read the whole story in 1 Kings 17-22.
The Religious Leaders bullied Jesus.
When Jesus was on this earth, he had some enemies. One of the main groups that weren't huge fans of Jesus was the religious leaders of the day. They constantly criticized the way that he flipped the script.
For example, Matthew 9:11 says, "When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'" They hated that Jesus decided to hang out with those who the religious leaders deemed "unfit" to be with.
Instead of listening to their criticisms, Jesus called them out publicly for their hypocrisy. In Matthew 23, he talks about how they love their place of honor, and how they add a load on people that is unnecessary through their extra laws and legalism. He speaks of how they have slammed the door of heaven in people's faces and calls them blind guides. He doesn't hold back against the bullies.
Shortly after this, Jesus is arrested (due to the religious leaders' requests) and is killed on the cross (after they advocated for that). They must have felt pretty good about themselves on that Friday evening. That is, until 3 days later, Jesus rose from the grave - showing the world that he was indeed who he said he was - the Son of God!
Saul (later called Paul) bullied Christians.
Saul was the number one enemy of the early church. He was passionate about snuffing out this new belief system. He truly believed that he was doing God's work by tracking down followers of Jesus and arresting them. Stephen, the first martyr of the church, was stoned and the coats of his executioners were laid at the feet of Saul.
In Acts 9, Luke writes that "Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem." If anyone was bullying the early church, it was Saul.
But then something happened. He encountered Jesus on the way to Damascus. He is convicted and deeply grieved by what he has done. He realizes that he was on the wrong side of history. He is blinded for a few days and then is healed by a leader in the church. (Around this time, he starts to go by Paul more often.)
Obviously, when Paul converted, there were skeptics in the church. After all, if your high school bully all of sudden said that they loved Jesus. I think you'd be skeptical too. Was this a trick? Was this an undercover mission or something?
Well, it turns out, it wasn't. Paul went on to plant dozens of churches and write much of the New Testament we have today.
How To Deal With Bullies as a Christian:
You can stand up to bullies. Elijah confronted the King of his country and Jesus called out the religious leaders publicly.
It's ok to run away from your bullies. Get to a safe environment. Elijah and David both ran when there was trouble.
God takes care of the bullied. In every single one of these stories, God ultimately takes care of the oppressed. Even in the case of Stephen's killing, he says Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” He was confident of where he was headed.
You are able to show mercy to bullies. David did by not killing Saul when he had the chance twice. Stephen did this by forgiving his murders before his death.
Bullies can be redeemed sometimes. We learn from Paul that God gives second chances even to the worst of the worst. Remember what Jesus said, pray for those who persecute you, and love your enemies.
Need to talk to a pastor about bullies in your life? Want to get connected with Anchor? We'd love to help you however we can. Just reach out right here.