Bullied in the Name of Jesus

BullyHave you ever been bullied in the name of Jesus?
I have.
I remember each one of them. Like a full offensive guard scowling at me from across the 50-yard line.
They didn’t know one another and they were separated by years and even denominations, but they were a united team.
They were bullies for Jesus.
I still can’t sing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” because one Sunday night after I’d filled in as song leader, a church leader came to me with rage in his eyes. I was twenty.
“Do you have any idea the heresy you’ve unleashed in this church! Is it your intent to be a daughter of Jezebel?” He growled at me.
Um. No. I mean. What? I was just the only person here tonight who can play guitar.
 
“No one decides to follow Jesus. It is only by grace and His choosing that worms like you and I are allowed into the kingdom. Don’t EVER choose that song again.”
Those words were my introduction to Calvinism and the concept of election. I have a better understanding now of what happened in that moment but thirty-one years later I still can’t sing that song without feeling his anger and the fear that I might be a heretic.
There must be a better way to introduce a young believer to Theology 101.
Then there was the elderly gentleman who stood behind me every week after church and put his hands on my shoulders for a long moment. One morning, he pulled his hands away in disgust. “You must not WANT to be healed!”
Excuse me? What?
 
“Every week for five weeks I’ve laid hands on you and prayed for you to be healed from lupus but you’re not healed. I believe that’s a sign that you WANT to stay sick. I don’t want anything to do with someone who has agreed with their illness.” With that, he stalked off.
Um, what?
 
It was like a drive-by faith healing gone awry. I felt guilty for months that somehow I not only had lupus but now I was responsible for it. (I was healed from lupus 19 years ago but that’s another story.)
There were plenty of women in this offensive bully line-up. Women bullies for Jesus usually use a more subtle approach.
I have often been invited over for tea before being clubbed by a woman bully.
“Some of us have been talking and we think your marriage may be in trouble because you aren’t home enough.”
Huh. Have you noticed that my husband is on the road for work eight-to-ten weeks at a time? That does strain things but you think the problem is that I’m not home enough?
 
“Yes, we think you should not do so many church ministries and stay home more.”
I’m all ready a stay-at-home mom and, as I said, my husband is on the road – all the time.
 
Sip of tea. Smile. “Still, that’s what we think. If you’re not open to what the Holy Spirit has to say, I guess we were right that there are deeper issues.”
Is this the Holy Spirit or is this because I don’t always agree with your friend about the direction for worship team?
 
“Well, I can’t even continue this conversation if you’re unwilling to have the mind of Christ about it.”
Okay, then. Thanks for the tea.
 
That conversation and a dozen more that followed left me with a worship-team phobia. That wound is still waiting to heal. I haven’t done much song-leading since.
There are well-intentioned bullies. People just zealous for the truth as they understand it, committed to defending God. And they’re just clumsy about carrying out what they truly believe they should be doing.
Many are products of bullying themselves.
Knowing that keeps me watching my own mouth, heart, and mind when dealing with others.
Don’t get me wrong. Straight truth and straight talk are often called for and Jesus spared no words when calling a Pharisee a Pharisee.
But words can be stones with incredible power to damage, wound, cripple.
And too often, people aren’t bullying for any well-intentioned reasons but out of fear, insecurity, a desire for power and control, and from a place of ignorance.
Brutalized sheep aren’t healthy sheep.
Sheep scare easily.
A sheep can die from a sudden fright.
Many do.
The side of the narrow road is littered with the bodies.
James offered us a beautiful command in this: “ My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20
Quick to listen. This is a constructive command that when obeyed, reaps amazing rewards.
James 1:19-20 is a weapon in the war for souls. Do you use it?
Another weapon we’re too quick to discard is meekness. Jesus was meek. The king of the universe – meek.
Meek doesn’t look like much but Jesus had it in his arsenal. This is another underutilized  weapon in our battle. It’s hard to practice meekness and maintain bully status.
Bullying is not the way of Jesus but it happens in the church – often.
I love the church. I won’t walk away from it but I carry scars from people who’ve bullied me in Jesus’ name.
If you’ve been bullied, bring your wounds to Jesus. Don’t fall off from following Him because of a misguided believer.
And watch that you don’t carry on the pattern! Consider prayerfully that you may be a bully for Jesus, loved one.
You don’t intend to be one, but maybe you’ve been one without realizing it. Jesus can show you a new way to operate with others.
He’ll teach you that getting your way is not as important as living His Way.
Where have you found healing from church bullying? Did you ever bully someone else before finding a new way?
Share your story. Let’s heal together. In Jesus’ name.

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18 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Ugh. Just sat through a brutal bully session (not aimed at me this time) last week. This holier than swiss cheese attitude is less edifying than the practitioners seem to think.

  2. It destroys us all and is frighteningly easy to fall into for any of us. “I’m glad I’m not judgmental like those people.” Right? We have to be diligently on guard against it in our own hearts and minds. Thanks, Don.

  3. So very sad, what we do to one another. Yes, I have been bullied in this way as a pastors wife. But I have also been the passive aggressive bully unfortunately. As a former “Church Lady” ALMOST as bad as the SNL character. In Bible school we were taught to use whatever it takes to get people into church or onto “the straight and narrow”. My heart hurts as I look back. Thinking we knew best, but so very very wrong!
    Thankfully God is helping me to spread the opposite message now. That he is not mad or mean or “out to get us”. If we can love as He does, what a difference this would make!

    • Your transparency is evidence of a changed heart! Praise God! I’m sure I bullied believers, too, in my younger years when I felt it was more important to be right than to be loving. Right is still vital but I no longer see it as my job to do “whatever it takes” to get people to see “the truth.” I spend more time in prayer and more time listening before exhorting. Thanks for your honesty!

  4. Your post title caught my attention when a Facebook friend shared it today. Oh my. Sort of a thread in my life as well. Just blogged about a particular early incident. Have wondered if there’s a sign on my forehead that welcomes bulliers. And yes, sad to say, I’ve been one of those bulliers too. Ugh! I’m glad that you’ve brought it out into the open. We all need to rein in our tendency towards trying to have power over others rather than letting the power of God’s love reign.

  5. This is why one of my favorite verses is…

    “…work out your OWN salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12B

    If we are busy working on our OWN relationship with God and rooting out our own sin, then we don’t have time to be pointing fingers at someone else.

    Jan

  6. Well said. I’ve been a victim in the past as I think most servants of God have. It’s about power and control over others’ lives more than anything else. The answer is that we must be overcomers and bring our experiences to others to turn it for good.

  7. Cyn Rogalski says:

    Well said Lori–well said. Thank you for posting this difficult but oh-so-rampant subject.

  8. Pam says:

    Very well written, Lori, and so very timely for me. Not only have I been on the receiving end of Christian bullying, but sadly, in the past I’ve been the one who has dished it out as well — to my husband,who has no desire to have a relationship with Jesus (gee whiz, I wonder why?) and, at times, to my children.

    Thanks for being brave enough to bring this subject out into the light, Lori.

  9. Just now got the chance to read this. Excellent post, Lori. I (within the past year!) had a lady at a Baptist Church (which I otherwise love) tell me that I was not saved “correctly” because I had been saved and baptised in the Church of the Brethren faith, and she felt it her duty to stand in the aisle beside me during the final hymn (when I just wanted some personal time to sing my heart to the Lord)and it was not only irritating but embarrassing. But, I see Christians making value judgments on other Christians all the time…judgments as to the depth of their Christianity, for example. Anyway, good post and I hope it takes wings and flies around the net.

  10. Pat Dyer says:

    Just wanted to let you know I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award in my latest blog post at http://www.patsydyer.com. Your turn to pass it on!

  11. Angela Young says:

    I’m glad you didn’t let the bullies turn you away from God. As a pastor’s daughter, I’ve met my share of bullies. It is truly sad the damage they can do.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Lori,
    im not writing about being bullied in church so i do not know if it’s ‘ok’ that i comment, but.. it was after doing a search on ‘bullying’ that i landed on your page…
    I was engaged for 2 years, and ditched few months ago. I thought for a LONG time about not being able to understand why I didnt ‘let things go’ because… he was a beater, abuser (verbal) and cheater..fact is, i should be able to let go, very well. im slowly understanding why.. because the protective side of me (while happy that the beating will stop) is actually responding……. to bullying. I know it’s not possible, but i want my apologies, i want to ‘square thing’ ive yet to let it go… so many in church are helping me, they say ‘it is because romance is hard to let go’, romance, romance, romance…i disagree… it is only thru deep periods of silences…I hear the truth.. I am not letting go, because i am responding ..to bullying. And while murderers and robbers are caged up in jail, no one catches Bullies, whom might actually inflict more (damage, pain, etc…) I want to heal, grow, get well. …now knowing that my pain is in the area of ‘having being bullied’ (and not ‘romance’ as being previously diagnosed) …perhaps i can get better. i HOPE i can get better, i really do.
    i love your blog’s ending words – “let’s heal together”. indeed, let’s heal together.

    i end with these words from Matt 10:31 – surly we are worth more than sparrows? we are indeed. and even sparrows..do not get to ‘fall’ to the ground, without God knowing. We are precious.

    If others have been hurtful, it does not mean God thinks like they do. Contrary.. we are very precious to God.

    Continue to live well, live good. Look to God, look to those who love you.. esp during times of bullying.

    God BLESS!! =)
    (astheearthsleeps@gmail.com)