Many of us know from our childhood or even as adults what it is like to be bullied. Somebody threatens or humiliates us and we feel small, powerless and afraid. We are intimidated to the point of doing nothing. Some of us may also have been the bully. We intimidate somebody else through our words or actions and we feel important and in control.
For those of us who have ever been bullied we need to hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “Do not be intimidated (Matthew 10:26-33).” These words can remind us there are many ways to be bullied. Certainly, we can feel immobilized and frightened through the intimidating words and actions of others. Maybe there is a huge conflict in the family or at work and we have no clue how to solve it. Ongoing acts of violence and terror such as we are witnessing these past weeks, can make us feel anxious and fearful about what may be next. We can also feel bullied by an illness which renders us helpless. Who among us during this pandemic has not felt powerless in trying to deal with the ravages of the virus? One of the dangerous consequences of being bullied is becoming bullies ourselves. When we feel powerless, one way to deal with it is to try to dominate others. At times, our defense to being intimidated is to intimidate.
For bullies and those who are bullied, the sparrow can teach us a lesson. Jesus says that even the tiny bird which is only worth a few cents will not be allowed to fall to the ground. He tells us not to be afraid and to remember that we are of greater value than the little sparrow who God cares for. When Jesus tells us not to be intimidated, he is ultimately teaching us how valuable we are to God. Feeling bullied and being the bully often happen because we forget that our true value lies in being precious in God’s eyes. Remembering how treasured we are by God can fill us with confidence when we feel intimidated. Knowing how much God cherishes us can motivate us to stop what may be bullying behaviors that we have exhibited toward others. Valuing the lives of others as God does can be the motivation for making serious efforts to put an end to racism and inequality.
Where might we feel bullied by another person, a circumstance of life or the condition of the world? Who might we be trying to intimidate? It is not too late to learn from the valued little sparrow and stop wasting our time on both.
Together in faith,
Very Reverend Christopher Smith, Rector