Bullying is something I remember taking place in school when I was a boy. Kids would be mean to other children for no apparent reason. For instance in our school we had three water fountains all lined together. It was decided that one boy was too disgusting for all of us to drink after so the middle water fountain was dedicated to him. The kids wouldn’t allow this boy to drink from the other two and if someone else was caught drinking from the middle fountain they were deemed to have cooties. Needless to say this poor boy didn’t have many friends.
In recent years the public has been made more aware of bullying. October is now been declared National Bullying Prevention Month. To be honest I never thought of bulling taking place as an adult. However Jennifer Livingston of WKBT in Wisconsin became famous when she exposed a man on a television report for trying to bully her about her weight.
Paul made reference to something he did growing up that obviously not all have accomplished. 1 Cor. 13: 11 states, “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Bullying is a childish act that my parents corrected in me by the skilled application of a tree switch to the seat of my pants. Children have to learn they can’t have their way all the time because left to themselves children will use any method available to them to get what they want. (Prov. 29: 15) Bullying is selfishness and believe it or not the Bible speaks of bullies in the church.
Diotrephes is painted as a bully in 3 John 1: 9. Among the church he loved to have preeminence. This is in stark contrast to the attitude Jesus taught in Matt. 23: 11. Diotrephes wanted complete control of the church. So much so that he cast out of the local church those he chose to cast out. He also turned away brethren from coming to church.
A church bully will commonly use what is referred to as a bully pulpit. A bully pulpit is the misuse of a sermon or a public prayer. I have heard preachers preach against others based on some disagreement. There is a way the Bible teaches us to handle such differences. For example, in Matt. 18: 15 -17 we see that differences are first to be handled alone face to face. Many times this process is skipped. Men will take matters into their own hands by preaching or even praying against their adversary.
Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside in Acts 18 to teach him more perfectly of the will of God. Apollos was an eloquent speaker and mighty in the scriptures. I’m sure it would have been a feather in their cap to embarrass Apollos publicly. They chose not to. They chose to treat Apollos as Jesus instructed.
Too many times I have heard preachers say they needed to preach against something when they saw a brother caught up in sin. My friends this is wrong. Go to that brother and address him alone. There is a time for everything. (Ecc. 3) The first sign of error is not the time to call out the sinner publicly.
Almost every time this happens the one preached against wants to know why the preacher didn’t talk to him privately first. That’s a good question. I recall a discussion I had with a preacher. We disagreed on a matter and I could tell it really bothered him. So at the next assembly of the church he decided to preach on it. He never pointed me out but he did use my quotes as examples.
After services I asked to speak with him alone. He obliged. Once we were alone I asked why he would preach such a sermon and not just come and talk with me. He denied he even thought about me. I told him I had a hard time believing that since he quoted me in the lesson. He just laughed and said the sermon must have mashed my toes. Needless to say I didn’t have much faith in him after that. I felt he used the pulpit to have the last word in our discussion. Brethren that is selfish.