O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Arrows of a Bully
"Arrows of a Bully"
Based on Ephesians 6:10-18
Preached on September 2, 2012
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Fellow baptized children of God, today we are going break the rules a little bit. We are going to talk about something nobody is allowed to talk about, but that everybody faces almost everyday. This morning, we are going to talk about bullying. It was recently reported that up to 70% of adults admit that they face some kind of bullying at work. Similarly, an emerging issue in Canada today is something called elder abuse. How often do you feel bullied? How often are you threatened? How often do you stop yourself from saying or doing something because you are afraid of what a bully might do to you? How often are you worried about going somewhere because you may come face to face with that bully? Yes, there are even bullies in the church.
We all know how it starts. The talk that is 'about' you, somehow turns into talk that is directed 'at' you. The comments, remarks, mocks, or whatever you call them are shot at you. You know what its like. Suddenly, it feels like you have been hit with an arrow. It strikes you and it stings. It hurts deep inside. But no one else can see the injury. There is no feathered end protruding from your heart. But it certainly feels like it. It burns. Your knees seem to lose strength. Somehow you have become the target.
The worst part is that you are bullied for anything. You are bullied for being too small, too big, too short, too tall, too fat, too skinny, too smart, too dumb, too slow, too fast, too shy, too loud, too flashy, too plain, too good, too mean. It doesn't matter what arrow, the bully shoots at you, it still hurts. And once you are the target, anything you do will bring another arrow. Any reaction, any backtalk is met with another arrow from the bully.
Ooohh, it makes you angry. Doesn't it? It makes you so angry. You seek advice about what to do, and all people say is "Ignore them." But ignoring is only acting. It doesn't stop the arrows. You can't act away the pain. And so you start to wonder, does anyone care? Does anyone know? Why doesn't anyone talk about it, or stand up against it? Why does everyone let it happen? Of course, everyone is held in fear by the bully's unwritten code. Never, under any circumstances do you snitch. Rats and tattletales are the best targets for bullies. And so bullying continues.
You may not realize it, but there are three spiritual bullies that are also bullying you. These spiritual bullies are after everyone. And they enjoy seeing the ones they have bullied, start to bully others. Often it is these spiritual bullies that drive the bullies you encounter on the proverbial playground of life.
The first spiritual bully is sin. Your sin bullies you. It says, "Hide me. Don't let anyone know about me." It makes you afraid to admit your mistakes. It makes you ashamed for what you have done. It manipulates you to think, act and speak differently than you normally would. (pause)
The second spiritual bully is the world. The world wants you to be someone else, someone other than who you really are. It wants you to deny Christ, keep your faith to yourself. It wants you to fit into it, and fit into its sinfulness. It makes you afraid that you will not belong unless you do what it demands. It whispers, "You better conform, or nobody is going to like you. I'll make sure of it." (pause)
The third and worst spiritual bully is the devil. He tries to bully your faith all the time. He has two lies. Two arrows that he fires at your soul. Either he tells you, that you are a good person, and you have done nothing wrong. Or he tells you what you have done is so bad, you cannot forgive yourself, and God will not forgive you. Both are lies. Both are arrows meant to destroy you. But what are we to do? There are so many bullies, does anyone care? (pause)
Jesus cares. Jesus was bullied too. But He wasn't bullied because He had to be. He was bullied for you, and in your place. As it is written, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." We all know the story, but think about it again. Jesus was betrayed, abandoned and denied by His best friends for you. He was beaten, whipped and bound by big Roman soldier-bullies for you. He was spit on, mocked and slapped by the authorities for you. He was crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross and shamed beyond imagination for you. He was bullied by the three spiritual bullies the devil, the world and your sin, for you.
But why? Why did He endure such abuse? Because He didn't want to snitch? Not at all. He was bullied to take away your anger. He was bullied so that you could be yourself, and not have to conform to the world. Jesus knows you are beautiful just the way He made you in Holy Baptism. He was bullied so He could stand up for you, step up and defend you against the devil. He was bullied so that He could forgive you of all your sin. To take away those hidden sins. To give you a reason to tell others that though you have done things that made you ashamed, Jesus has forgiven you. He has taken your shame away. Jesus was bullied to take away your fear. He was bullied because He loves you.
Now, Jesus gives you His armor, so you can be protected from both physical and spiritual bullies. He stands up for you when you are bullied. And He gives you the tools to stand up for others. The Armor of God.
God equips you with the belt of truth. This belt keeps your pants up, it prevents you from tripping over them, or being distracted by lies. It promises that you can tell the authorities the truth about bullies, that you can report elder abuse, workplace abuse and the like. It reminds you that your armor is all held together by the truth, and should you abandon the truth you will become vulnerable to the attacks of deception.
He equips you with the breastplate of righteousness, to protect your heart with His righteousness. No arrow of the Evil One can pierce this armor. He may try to tell you that you are a good person, but God's breastplate of righteousness reminds you that it is not your righteousness that saves you, but His. .
He makes you sure-footed in your fight, by assuring you that you are at peace with Him. The Evil One may try to convince you that God will not forgive those really bad sins, but as shoes for your feet, God gives the gospel of peace, the promise that all sins are forgiven, yes, even that really bad one. Only then can you stand firm in your faith.
Christ equips you with the shield of faith, a shield soaked in the waters of your baptism that puts out the flaming arrows of the devil. His arrows will come at you many times a day, but deflecting them is as easy as returning to the faith-waters of your Baptism. Remembering what God promised to you that cannot be burned up, injured or destroyed - for it is stored safely for you in heaven - even eternal life.
He equips you with the helmet of salvation, to protect your mind with the certainty of your new life in Him. And last, but certainly not least, He equips you with the Sword of the Spirit. This weapon is the Word of God Himself. It is your sure defense, and your strategic counter-attack. As you train with God in His armor, He will teach you how to wield this sword better everyday.
So when the bullies come around.
And the arrows begin to fly.
Remember what Jesus did for you.
How love brought him to die.
So strap His armor on real tight.
And say prayer or two.
He is there also by your side,
Prepared to protect you.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr