For many years I was bullied by Christian pastors and leaders and I am ashamed to say I became part of the system and I became for a time a harsh and punishing step-father.
Jesus spoke very harsh words against the sin of Christian bullying.
But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. Matthew 24:48-49 (NIV)
- There are also religious bullies who don’t get drunk or indulge in sins of the flesh but is Jesus suggesting that bullying is just as bad as getting drunk and indulging the flesh? or worse?
Bullying does not happen by accident or by chance. It is often an expression of a legalistic religious mindset.
What is legalism? It is an attempt to prevent, correct of punish real or imagined sin by human means using human thinking and human rules.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'” Matthew 15:7-9 (NIV)
Religious legalism usually leads to outright bullying. Jesus spoke more strongly against these two sins than any other sin.
- I am not against pastors. There are wonderful pastors and I know some as personal friends. Pastors too can be victims of bullying. I have seen this several times and it is horrible.
The Apostle Paul was also very strong in condemning bullying. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul rebukes the Corinthian believers. Why? Because of sex sin? No. He dealt with that in his first letter.
He rebukes them for submitting unconditionally to pastors and preachers. Maybe you have read the letter but missed that point. Here it is.
You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. 2 Cor 11:19-20 (NIV)
- Any pastor or preacher who demands unconditional and total surrender to himself is a false shepherd.
- Any pastor who becomes angry, intimidating or threatening towards anyone who criticises or disagrees with him is a false teacher and a false shepherd.
- Any pastor or leader who imposes his will on people to the point that his word is law, that pastor or leader is a false shepherd.
There are many Christians who feel uneasy, resentful or secretly angry towards over confident, controlling leaders but they believe they must not resist because that would be the sin of rebellion.
This is a false understanding of scripture.
- When King Saul tried to kill David, David fled for his life.
- If you are bullied in church, you are entitled to leave the church.
It is more than an entitlement. In many circumstances it is you duty before God.
If you are bullied in church, you face an impossible choice. Either you can follow Jesus, who is totally kind and good and on your side, or you follow a nasty arrogant bully who disguises his cruelty and pride with pious words.
You cannot serve two masters.
Supposing you are imprisoned by religious parents or a ruthlessly controlling husband who will not let you escape from a legalistic church. You could be thrown out into the street or lose your children.
- You must be like Joseph in prison who cultivated a secret relationship with God.
He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Ps147:3 (NIV)
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV)
- It is good if you can talk back to bullies and it is not a sin but sometimes a soft answer is the best policy.
- In extreme cases, the strongest answer is a stubborn, determined silence, especially if you are expected to agree, express submission or apologise when you believe you are not in the wrong.
- His SILENCE was the strongest answer.