By Marci Preheim
The “love” chapter, found in 1 Corinthians 13, may well be the most quoted, and yet least heeded passage in the Bible. It is practically a given that a recitation of it will show up in most Christian weddings. We all know that love is patient and love is kind, but how much attention do we pay to what love is not? Paul says love is not: envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered.
These are the characteristics of bullies. People rarely consider themselves to be bullies. It is easy to see the sins of others, but pride blinds people from seeing their own guilt. Matthew 24:12 warns that in the last days “the love of most will grow cold.” I see this taking place all around me.
Anger and bullying are love-killers. But they have become the go-to reaction of people in our culture when they don’t get their way—even in Christian circles. James says that the source of these quarrels come from “your desires that battle within you. . .You want something but don’t get it (James 4:1-2).
Anger works to control behavior in the short term, but it kills relationships in the long-term. The greatest command for believers (love God and others) is shoved aside in favor of theological controversies (1 Timothy 1:4), worldly wisdom (Colossians 2:8) and behavioral demands (Colossians 2:20-23). Here is an excerpt from my book Grace is Free on this topic:
When did it become okay for Christians to be angry people? As our culture declines, the anger of religious people seems to grow. . .We try to get people to conform to our Christian standards, but they won’t cooperate. We are angry that those sinners are ruining our perfect Christian utopia. . .[but] do we preach a gospel of social pressure that forces certain behavior, or do we preach the good news about a Savior—Jesus Christ—who died and rose again to reconcile sinful people to God?
Christian bullies infiltrate churches, monopolize resources, wear out church leaders with their demands, and spread malicious gossip. Should this come as a surprise? Not at all, Paul warned both Timothy and Titus that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). He also told them not to indulge in “godless chatter” and “stupid arguments” because they are unprofitable and only produce quarrels (see 2 Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9-11).
With the onslaught of the Internet, bullies have bigger platforms than ever. Read the comments section on most (even Christian) blogs and you will witness literal hatred spewing from the keyboards of thousands of bullies. I believe this is a blind-spot in our generation of Christians. Do we honestly believe we can bully people into the kingdom of Christ or into whatever other agenda we have?
Bullies may get their way but it will cost them their relationships. Love isn’t like business. If you are envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking and easily angered, you will push people away. They may not openly confront you. They will simply slip away.
It is helpful to take an honest look at your relationships. Would you be willing to consider that perhaps you have been a Christian bully? I know that I have. I have also been the recipient of Christian bullying. Both have driven me to my Savior’s feet for forgiveness and protection.
Here are some questions to ask yourself: Are you rude and critical to your family members? Do you give and withhold affection based on the performance of others toward you? Do you react with anger when someone doesn’t do what you think they should do? Do you bull-doze people into thinking like you? Do you wish people would be more like you? Most of us would say no. Most of us can immediately think of someone who has treated us this way.
There is hope for both bullies and victims of bullies (we have all probably been both at one time or another). That hope is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life on our behalf and died to pay the price for our inability to “be good.” We get his righteousness for free if we will receive it by faith (Romans 3:21-23). Christian rest comes when we lay down our own guilt at the foot of the cross as well as our expectations of others. And what sweet rest it is.
Marci Preheim was born in Lincoln, Nebraska but moved to Hollywood, California as a teenager. It was there, at the age of 21, that she came to know the Savior through the ministry of a local church. Within a couple of years of her conversion she became involved in a women’s prison ministry and discovered her passion for sharing the gospel publicly. Marci has been married to Arnie Preheim since August of 1993. Shortly after their marriage, Arnie and Marci moved to Nashville, Tennessee. They have 2 children, Brock (born in 1995) and Paige (born in 1998). Marci regularly teaches the women’s Bible study at Community Bible Church. For ten years, she has also led a monthly chapel service for women at the Nashville Rescue Mission (Hope Center for female recovering addicts). You can find more of her writing at marcipreheim.com and in her book, Grace is Free: One Woman’s Journey From Fundamentalism To Failure To Faith.
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