The Problem with a Bully

By Robert Fleischmann, National Director of Christian Life Resources


It appears most people define a “bully” as the strong and mean intimidating the weak and meek. At one time, bullying meant mean kids picking on weaker or disadvantaged kids. I think that definition is obsolete.

Contemporary bullying appears to be an activity one engages in because he or she has failed to make a case democratically, logically, rhetorically, or legally. We saw this over the past year when speakers were shouted down at university events as being “too” liberal or “too” conservative. This form of bullying still uses intimidation but has combined it with disruption techniques designed to silence a different point of view. This form of bullying is the contingent remedy for those who cannot win their argument through dialogue or democratic means.

Heather Gerken, the dean of Yale Law School, wrote a great single-paged article on this topic in the July 24, 2017 issue of Time magazine. You can read it here.

As Christians our calling is simple – speak the truth (Zechariah 8:16; Ephesians 4:25). That directive might appear to permit disruptive protests to drown out contrary voices. Scripture, however, provides the caveat to speak the truth “in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

It makes sense when you think about it. We cannot “correct, rebuke, and encourage” (2 Timothy 4:2), love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27) if we are insulting, disrupting, and harsh. The calling to be lights in a sin-darkened world (Philippians 2:15) is predicated on having and nurturing a relationship. You cannot nurture a relationship through methods of disruption and disrespect.

Our ultimate goal is not to win an argument but to communicate the truth of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Our message is God’s instrument for changing hearts. Drowning out a contrary voice – even a heretic – forfeits an opportunity to speak the truth and to be heard.

Jesus walked among the tax collectors, prostitutes, zealots, laborers, Pharisees, and religious leaders. Some had nothing but contempt for who he was and what he was saying. Nevertheless, with great patience and careful instruction, he spoke the truth in love. It pushed some further away (Matthew 12:14) and brought others closer (John 3).

In this imperfect world, there is always error. Our objective standard of truth is Scripture. To share its message of truth we need to build bridges and not walls whether our topics are abortion, euthanasia, evolution, creation, or salvation. For the follower of Christ taking the high road of speaking the truth in love is our only road – even when confronting a bully.

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