When I was younger, people said I marched to the beat of a different drummer, that I was a non-conformist, even unique. That didn’t make me happy because, when you’re a kid, you know that no matter what adults might tell you, being different is not good thing. Being different means you stand out, and standing out leads to all kinds of shitty things, like the cause du jour: bullying. Bullying takes many forms, but to my mind, someone is bullied when they’re made to feel inferior, singled out, excluded and humiliated. There is a mountain of psychobabble available about why people do this; in my experience, people bully others when they’re nervous, uncomfortable or just plain scared. I think they feel that way because, on some level, they wish they had the courage to stand out, too. Now, it could be that I came up with that as a coping mechanism to deal with blows to my self-esteem, but there’s also some truth in there. I only know it works for me.
Unfortunately, some of the most scared, nervous uncomfortable people out there are Christians. Last night, after I picked up my daughter from her youth meeting, we were on our way home and I asked her what the night’s program was about. She said they were talking about how their identity. To start out they were supposed to write down some words they’d use to describe themselves and then pick one to share with the group. While one person described themselves as a Christ-follower, no one else said anything remotely theological. When the leader asked why they didn’t, most of them said they didn’t because they were tired of explaining that weren’t the “mean kind” of Christian. That doesn’t sound good for us, does it? It means people outside our faith see us as bullies and you know what? They just might be right. If people are bullied when they feel inferior, singled out, excluded and humiliated due our actions or words, we’re guilty of bullying. I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when founded His church.
Instead of being the bully, the church should be the place where someone who feels inferior, singled out, excluded and humiliated can seek refuge. We should be the place where people come to feel equal, included and worthy of love. We should be the place that tells them what the world thinks doesn’t mean anything because God loves just the way they are. We should be the place they come when their biological family disowns them. We should be the place where they know they are loved not just by God, but by living, breathing human beings regardless of who they are, what they have or what they’ve done. We should be the place they come when they’ve screwed up because they know they’ll find forgiveness, not judgment. And, we should do it because that’s what Jesus would do.