adventures in loving your neighbour: bullying

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’  Matthew 22:36-40 NRSV

Bullying is a reality.  It is dominating reality in many different contexts where people relate to others.  Places and spaces such as at the office, school, on sports teams, on street corners, and even in families.  In the past few years the media eye, in all it’s mediums, has tuned it’s fine eye toward the numerous suicides of high school students that are a result of bullying.

Bullying is something that happens over a long period of time.  The stuff you see in the hallways at a school are a mere microcosm of what the bullying is actually doing.  The persistent assault on a persons physical and emotional self worth is where the sheer brutality of bullying lays it’s foundation.

“What does loving your neighbour look like when you see someone being bullied?”


The beautiful part about the parables of Jesus is that they are so open ended.  They poke and prod the mind to think outside the box.  They offer our imaginations a place to think about what it would look like if the kingdom of God and our context would collide.  The parables of Jesus orient us to a different reality, in doing so, they offer a critique or current context.  Even now, 2000 years later.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is no different (Luke 10:25-37).

There was risk for the Good Samaritan when he picked up the nearly dead Jewish traveler, put him on his donkey and took him to an inn to be cared for.  It is no secret that in 1st century Palestine Samaritans and Jews hated the mere sight of each other.  Imagine the audience listening to Jesus talk of a Samaritan helping a fellow Jew.  The mere thought of being associated with ‘the other’ must have been a difficult thing for the listeners to wrap their heads around.  Jesus is telling the listeners in this parable that you don’t pick and choose who your neighbour is.  They aren’t merely the people in your cul-de-sac.  They can even be your enemy.  So the broad range of people whom we should love is, well…. everybody.

Part of the brutality of bullying in a high school context is the public arena in which it takes place.  So to love a neighbour being bullied infuses one into the centre of the crowd.  It’s as if you are putting on the same uniform as the one being bullied.   We can call that ‘guilty’ by association.  By associating with ‘the other’ their problems become your problems.  That takes guts.

That is where the risk is!

The risk is in the long term committed association with the person who is being bullied.  It’s in the relationship, it’s not merely stopping a bullying event in a hallway.  Its being a friend for them to take emotional refuge in and not just physical rescue which is a mere symptom of what is really happening within the person being bullied.  Long term and sustainable relationship.  It’s as if the love Jesus is talking about is calling us to invest in the neighbour, not do a mere superhero drive-by.

If someone I cared about asked me if they should intervene in a bullying scenario my first instinct is to weigh the risks of the person I care about.  I take a second to respond because the mere association with the bullied person could bring the same risk to their doorstep.  Yet, if I were to ask Jesus the same question I have an inkling that he encourages me to take that risk.

Yikes.  It may be easier to stay within my cul-de-sac.

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