|Posted by Dr. David Miller, D.B.S. on November 7, 2010 at 9:55 PM|
Well, everyone, it's good to pretend to see all of you again! My name is David Miller, and I'm the preacher here at Angels of Hope Church of Christ. My camera is still being worked out, so I pray you'll bear with me here...
God has gotten my family and I off the streets of Charleston, South Carolina. Now, I've been able to pay rent on a motel room; I've bought a laptop and another webcam; and I have plenty of food and clean clothes. I'm not just praising God for the inconsequentials, like a computer and webcam: I'm praising God for providing for me while I was on the streets, and bringing me to a better situation... something God can, wants to, and often does, for those who need it.
Today's sermon comes from a topic that has gained so much attention over the last few months with the rise of the "It Gets Better" project, that it needs to be addressed. I seriously can't let it go any longer. You've heard my rants about uncharitable elitists, and how they make people suffer and go without for no good reason. You've heard my sermons about homosexuality. You've heard my sermons about why bad things happen to good people. Now, I'm going to spend time on the darker side of what is supposedly human nature... a side that doesn't have to be human nature... a side that, like all our other decisions, we're all intelligent enough to choose to change. I'm talking about bullying.
In the 1990's, children were bullied so badly that they were ready to blow peoples' brains out. Today, they're just so desperate for the psychological trauma to end, that many of them commit suicide. Having been a victim of such bullying during my seventh-grade year in Lincoln, Nebraska, at Goodrich Middle School - and enduring the governmental oppression that lasted for eighteen months because of it, - it's an issue that weighs heavily upon my heart. Personally, I've forgiven those who have hurt me; but the scars of their abuse and torture still haunt me... but this sermon isn't about me...
One could say that the entire Bible is about the struggle between "strangers" and bullies. Naturally, it's Satan who instigates bullying, in every sense of the word: if he can't bully God, he thinks he can bully other people. A bully is one who tries to use force, intimidation, or manipulation, to get what that person wants, usually to the suffering of others... much like those the Bible calls "wicked". The targets of bullying? You guessed it: strangers. The term "stranger" is often a general term; which can mean homeless person, traveller, or person who is strange to one's standards of cultural normalcy.
We've all been there: many of us on both sides of the fence. The sins of other people, or a judgment we somehow didn't see coming, devastates us. Sometimes, people bully us; and the stress, intimidation, and propaganda they use tear us down on every conceivable level... all-too-often, making us give in and accept their bullying as "the natural order", or accept their propaganda as an inevitable truth. Some of us - whether it be to alleviate our own feelings of helplessness and violation, or just to get what we want that we don't deserve, - become bullies to others: spreading the cycle of hatred, propaganda, pain and suffering, and even violence. In the end, bullies are just sad, pathetic fools... and, if they really do have a heart, they eventually grow to regret making their targets suffer so monstrously. What does God say, and do about it? What are some examples of bullying?
In the Bible, there are several passages that deal with bullying. Some are examples of how people suffered, and how far bullying could go (such as the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, the story of the flood in Genesis 6-9, the story of Sodom and Gomorrha - punished for reasons other than mere homosexuality, - in Genesis 19, the story of Isaac and Ishmael in Genesis 21, the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25-28, the story of Joseph and his brothers from Genesis 45-50, the story of Exodus 1-15, the story of Gideon, the story of the sons of Ba'al in Judges 17-21, and several of the stories of the kings in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, etc.); others are examples of how God punishes bullies (such as in the many writings of the prophets; specifically Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel); still others are direct commands about not oppressing people, and instructions about how to deal with such oppression.
Gen 15 and 19; Exo 1-15, 22, 23, and 30; Lev 19, 23 and 25; Num 15 and 35; Deu 1, 10, 14, 23, 24, 26 and 27; Jos 20; 1Ki 8; 2Ch 6; Job 31; Psa 69 and 94; Pro 11; Jer 7, 14 and 22; Eze 22 and 47; Oba 1; Zec 7; Mal 3; and Mat 25, just to name a few, deal with the issue of oppression of the "stranger".
Whatever the case may be, the issue is that the Bible makes clear that oppression, or bullying, is intolerable to God.
What is there end? In the past, God put them to death, before they could oppress and cause worse harm: which is why the Israelites were often sent to war, and commanded to kill so many people... even male children and fully-grown females. To the people of Sodom and Gomorrha, He sent fire and brimstone from Heaven. To the priests of Ba'al, he sent a miracle to confound them, and a sword to slaughter them as they slaughtered innocent people. To bullies in the Israelite culture, the only option other than repentance was being pelted with rocks, until the bully died. When the Israelites themselves became bullies, God would send in other bully-nations to invade, conquer, exile and oppress them.
Unfortunately, even the great teachers of the Law and Prophets - the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, lawyers, elders, priests, Levites, and governmental officials, - soon became the bullies. When it came to their relationship with future generations of intermarried Samaritans and Gentiles, for example, they not only refused to touch or help them in any way, but constantly berated them to every passer-by... even in public, to their own faces. How did God punish them? Eventually, they lost their homeland.
Ezekiel 18 and Ezekiel 33 tell us that, when bullies take over a land, God sends destruction and suffering... but He always warns the innocent people in that area, before sending destruction: if they choose to stay and support the bullies, that's on them.
In other words, God hates bullies.
Does that mean we have the right to attack and kill bullies? Of course not. Indeed, God tells us how to deal with them. In Proverbs 26:4-5, we read that we are not to imitate their foolish method of argument, lest we should appear to be like them. Of course, we're also supposed to argue against their foolish ideas, to ensure that they have no excuse. Perhaps the best advice came from Paul in Romans 12:20... "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If your enemy is thirsty, give him drink. By so doing, you are heaping coals of fire upon his head." Don't forget the many commands of Jesus to forgive, when they repent (such as in Matthew 6:12-15, 9:6, 18:21 & 35; Mark 2:7 & 10 and 11:25-26; Luke 5:21 & 24, 6:37, 11:4, 17:3-4, and 23:34) ; or the statement of Romans 12:19: "Vengeance is Mine: I will recompense, says the Lord of Hosts."
While we are supposed to forgive our enemies when they repent, we're also supposed to stand up to them when they cause trouble, as did the prophets and martyrs of old... and we're supposed to peacefully resist their terrorist techniques, as long as they're not threatening others with bodily harm (of course, if we can only stop their violence by being violent with them... who's going to fault us, right?).
Remember, when you take the Lord's Supper this Lord's Day, that you're not alone. Jesus was bullied: suffering the taunts, slanderous lies, and physical abuse of his tormentors. He also set us free from the typical cycle of abuse, abusive revenge, and more abusive revenge. He suffered and died, so we wouldn't have to. He calls to us to repent, so we don't cause others to suffer anymore. After all, we all know bullies in our lives; and they're all pathetic shells of the people they were meant to be all along. The point is, you're not going through anything new. Christ, the prophets before Him, and His martyrs since have all suffered the same bullying Satan instigates. The strength lies in not giving in. The bullies are the weak ones, and will be the ones to suffer in Judgment day... NOT you.
Jesus tells us, in Matthew 24 (as well as Mark 13 and Luke 21), that there will be worse bullying in the Last Days and the End Times. Face it: we're the "nerds" of the world. While we may usually have the right answers (mainly because we study the textbook), and the bullies try to force us to fix their problems for them, they'll turn on us in a heartbeat: slandering, accusing falsely, using propaganda, taking away our fair opportunities, trying to silence us legally, imprisoning and robbing us, violating us in physical ways - mainly beatings and torture, as they do in most Communist/Socialist and Shariah nations, - and eventually killing us. Remember, though, that God will vindicate us at the end. We receive our honourable reward upon death, and will be further rewarded after Judgment day.
I pray that you're all blessed by God in every conceivable way, and that God lets you see His vengeance on those who have made you suffer. If you are a bully, in any conceivable manner, I pray that you repent of your pathetic and foolish ways, before they catch up with you... both here and now, in the consequences you accrue; and on Judgment Day, when your deeds and intentions will be judged by God.
Thanks for visiting, and may the peace of Christ be with you all. Amen.