Posted by Tim Harrelson

If you are being bullied…

Over the last several weeks, we have been exploring how God’s word addresses bullying, specifically from the perspective of the bully. In the following weeks, we will be exploring how Scripture addresses bullying from the perspective of the one being bullied. The one being bullied should take heart and pursue righteousness in their situation based upon four main topics, which we will explore each week: Responsibility and Sovereignty, Personal Peace and Purity, Right Appeals to Authority, & the Resolve to Persevere. We will conclude our series with a reminder of the identity and security of the believer who bullies others or who is bullied by others.

Responsibility & Sovereignty

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The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law”(Dt. 29:29). When we are the recipients of bullies’attempts to target us with humiliation, we are introduced to a slippery slope of response. Ken Sande, in his book, The Peacemaker, describes it like this, “There are three basic ways people respond to conflict. These responses may be arranged on a curve that resembles a hill. On the left slope of the hill we find the escape responses to conflict. On the right side there are the attack responses. And in the center we find the peacemaking responses.”[1] Sande goes on to explain that anytime we are faced with a difficult conflict or dilemma, we stand upon this icy slope and, depending upon our view of God, we can slide either way. Ultimately, we want to stay atop this slope, faithfully making a Christ-exalting response. But as said before, the crucial factor that determines this is our current understanding of God. So the question is posed, “Does God know about this?”

One of the most treasured truths about our God is that He is sovereign. As a popular theologian once put it, “”There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”[2] Put a better way, Paul writes

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Col 1:15-18)

Notice this beautiful truth, that as Christ is head over all things, He is alsohead over the church. In all things He is preeminent. This means that the same one whom God has appointed Master over governing officials and empires, He has also appointed as the Head of the Church! In other words, what have we to fear? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) Does God know about your “friend” spreading false rumors about you? Does God know that you are getting beat up for apparently no reason? Does God know that groups of girls are ganging up against you to ruin your reputation as you know it? This text suggest that not only does He know it, but He is in control over how far He will allow it to go.

The question comes, “Why has He allowed it to go this far?” To this, I believe, God gives you the only answer you need to know. Peter, in writing to Christians who were persecuted, explicitly for their faith, writes to encourage them and guide them, saying, “In this [the past, present, and future effects of God’s salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, emphasis mine). Simply put: testing reveals genuineness. Applied to being bullied, how you think, feel, and respond to being bullied has everything to do with your relationship to God – and it will show its genuineness in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Will you grab ahold of all the blessings and promises of God and trust in your Creator and Savior? Or, will you take matters into your own hands and slide down to either side of the slippery slope? Once Paul asks the question in Romans 8:31, his next question injects a shot of relief and joy in the ears of his audience, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (8:32) The God who is sovereign over all, who has shown His ultimate love in offering His Son up for your sins, has also abundantly given you all things you need to face the situations He allows in your life.

So, since our God is sovereign and for His people, how are we to be responsible over our situation? The next few posts will explore different ways that God opens up for us to be responsible.[3] I need to stress that each of the ways we exert our responsibility needs to be grounded in a character that aligns with Christ. Roles and responsibilities that are carried out apart from the identity and character we have in Christ will be done foolishly and dangerously. Christ’s purchase of his disciples by his death and resurrection, his example of love and sacrificial servitude by his life, and the indwelling of his Spirit by his ascension all must stir in our minds and hearts as we carry out the responsibilities he gives to us.

[1] Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 22-23. For a more teen-oriented version, see Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson, The Peacemaker: Handling Conflict without Fighting Back or Running Away, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008).

[2] Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader, ed. James D. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 488. Quote from Kuyper’s inaugural address at the dedication of the Free University of Amsterdam.

[3] For a helpful article that helps to address this issue practically, please see