I recently had an encounter with a bully. He did not try to steal my lunch money, but he did use threats in an attempt to get me to validate his inappropriate behavior. The threats came because I disagreed with how he is handling a situation and I pointed out the harm that he is doing to some of God’s people.
While formulating a plan to respond to this situation, in my daily Bible reading, Luke quotes Jesus as saying this:
“To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also”Luke 6:29a, ESV
Whether it is by personality or by training, or some combination of both, I like to have rules to assist in making decisions. But one thing we learn from the gospels is that Jesus often didn’t play by the conventional rules and sometimes it is difficult to discern if a rule is from God (and inviolable) or from man (and can be ignored).
Earlier in the same chapter of Luke, this is illustrated by Jesus defending his disciples for eating grain on the Sabbath. Jesus allowed the eating while the Pharisees condemned it.
But Luke 6:29 begs the question, should I turn the other cheek to a bully? Should I not, rather, take the fight back to him to protect myself and others from his threats? Should I not expose his inappropriate behavior and threats? Is there a rule which governs this situation?
Conventional wisdom is that the best response to a bully is to stand up to him. I should set a boundary and not let him cross it. We love stories where the bully is set in his place by a former victim. Who doesn’t cheer when Ralphie unloads on Scut Farkus in the Christmas Story?
Should I take the fight to the bully?
One thing I learn from Jesus is that he always did the right thing and did not worry about how his behavior was perceived. Jesus knew that the religious leaders were looking for a reason to accuse him but this did not stop him from fulfilling his mission. In short, Jesus was not worried about his standing or reputation with those religious leaders, his only concern was obedience to the Father’s will.
In this case, the bully can only attempt to ruin my reputation among fellow church leaders. I am willing to allow the evidence to be examined, and if I have erred in my judgment of the matter that caused the angry response, I am willing to be corrected.
So, I will turn the other cheek and will not respond to the angry outburst and threats. This is not because I am refusing to set a boundary for the bully.
The boundary that I am setting is that I will not allow the bully to dissuade me from my assessment unless he proves by Scripture that I was wrong in it. How he responds is between him and his Creator.