When children are believers, they are going to be persecuted more than non-Christian students are, so what can parents do?
It seems that there are more bullies around these days than when I was a boy, and I’m not just talking about playground bullies. There are bosses who bully their workers, co-workers who bully co-workers, and recently I heard of an older son bullying the whole family. Bullies have been around for as long as people have, so what can we tell our children when they face persecution or bullying? In the first place, the bullying might be because your children or grandchildren are Christian. Perhaps some of the students have seen your children pray before lunch or heard them talk about God. Christians are more often the target of bullies than other children, and ironically, children who typically misbehave may be the most popular of all in school. This is why I think it’s good to remind children that good people might be picked on more often because of the fact that they are not like others who misbehave, swear, or talk badly about others. The Apostle Paul was clear in saying, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).
The Apostle Paul already told us that if we desire to live a godly life, we had better expect persecution (2 Tim 3:12), so the real surprise would be if we never suffered persecution. Children must expect it and know that it’s normal and always will be normal until Jesus returns again. Be sure to tell children that other children have experienced the very same thing, and there is always someone out there who is suffering from bullying far worse than they are, so they are not alone in being bullied. The Apostle Peter tells us, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial that has come upon you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12). In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised because all who are believers have gone through persecution, even as children perhaps, so children are certainly not alone in suffering from bullies because it has been happening for over 2,000 years to Christ-followers. I think it’s more surprising if a child is never bullied or persecuted for being a Christian. We are not of this world and so we are not going to be received well by the world. It’s something that cannot be helped, but the question is, “How will we respond to it?”
How to Respond
Jesus had more enemies than any man in history. The entire nation of Israel rose up against Him to have Him murdered. The Romans were no friend of Judaism either as so they loved the idea of crucifying Jews, religious or not, so what should children do when someone responds to them with hate, saying hurtful words to them? Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). This means we don’t get even or pay them back. We do as Jesus said, “To one who strikes you on the cheek” (Luke 6:29a). Of course, this isn’t talking about someone literally slapping you in the face. The context is clear that Jesus refers to persecution and not physical abuse. No one should be a person’s punching bag. That must stop, but what Jesus is saying is that if someone insults you, turn the cheek, and be ready for more on the other cheek. Love them when they hate you, bless them when the curse you, and do good to them when they do bad things to you. Tell your children that Jesus never got revenge or struck anyone and did not try to “get even.” He left that to God to judge, and that time wasn’t then, and that time isn’t now, but it will come. Tell your children and grandchildren that every single act ever done by a person will be judged. In the end, no one will get away with anything. God will judge them, not us, so children (and we) must remember that God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head,” (Rom 12:19-2), so by all means, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:20). That is what Jesus did on the cross for us. He died for us while still wicked, ungodly sinners who were His enemies (Rom 5:6-10).
When children hear hurtful words, tell them to not take it personally. It may be Jesus and His message that they hate more than the children. We can’t expect the world to love us because if the world hated Jesus, and it did, then it will treat us in the very same way. We must model the love of God for our children and grandchildren to see, and if they see us react in anger and try to pay someone back, then that’s the way they’ll learn to react to bullying and persecution, but Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). What our Lord is saying is that people will know we’re the real thing…truly, Jesus’ disciples, but not by our arguments or logic or debates, but by our love for one another. It is love that will prove that we are His disciples. By loving one another and by loving others, you show that “you are my disciples,” but only “if you have love for another.” Love is hard to argue with.
May God richly bless you
Pastor Jack Wellman
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