His big brown eyes looked up at me as if to say, “See, Mom. I told you. Now what do I do?” The silent but obvious question was in response to another child shoving him right in front of me, an adult, and saying how he was “so much bigger and better than everyone else”. This particular child is one I have heard about many times over the course of the past year, but on this day, I witnessed firsthand his destruction of others.
While I am well versed in grown up bullies, it has been dozens of years since I witnessed their pint-sized counterparts. And honestly, when I became a parent, I never imagined having to face this scenario of tiny terrors head on—children being aggressive and downright cruel in front of adults. It begs the question: What does this say about their view of adults when these things occur? When I was little, I seem to recall bullying taking place in bathrooms or when the teachers were not watching during recess. So, when I see children habitually tormenting others with no concern over who is watching, I cannot help but wonder: What is going on in their homes that makes them think what they are doing is acceptable, and in some cases, commendable? Are they observing men and women who grew in stature but never in wisdom? Only God and a bully’s parents can answer that question. What I have learned, however, is if I am to be a proactive Christian parent, every time I am put in a situation where a response is required, I need to respond—because of love.
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Judgments are often made about the guy in the office who has a chip on his shoulder or the passive aggressive mom at the PTA meetings. What people tend to forget, though, is every adult was once a child. And unless a proactive parent stepped up to the plate when the ball was thrown, a child may have encountered only passive ones who did not want to get involved. For those of us who are believers in Christ, we do not get the choice to “sit one out” because something makes us uncomfortable or is not politically correct. No—instead, we are told to be a light in the darkness, to make disciples, and to love others. God does not say let the pastor or the more mature believer do it. He says YOU. Imagine if all of us who claim the name of Christ took the time to lovingly engage those children who look more like thorns than roses. Imagine if our own children saw us not merely saying what we believe, but doing it?
The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:8-9)
Wherever you are is your mission field. Ask yourself: Am I more concerned about what the world around me thinks—from PTA to playgroups—or what Jesus says, which is to deny myself and take up my cross daily? This is not always comfortable, but the Christian life is not one of comfort. But it is one of joy! And there is much joy to be found in being a proactive Christian parent rather than the passive person choosing to pass the buck (and opportunity to witness) to the next person in line. Listen, there are too many grown up children who have gone from wreaking havoc in the classroom to wreaking havoc in the boardroom or at home. What if someone had offered gentle correction along the way—would their choices be different today? Many of these now grown bullies are raising children of their own, and like we often say: more is caught than taught. Do not hope to be salt and light—be it. Be active. Present. Engaged. You never know when a parent who isn’t following God’s path will cross yours. Choose to notice and to love—with gentle reproof.
As that little boy relentlessly mocked my own, I made the choice to engage him—not out of spite but a genuine desire to connect with him. I do not know what kind of home he returns to when school is done—but by the outpouring he offers, I can only assume he is missing out on knowing he can use his strength differently. So, while my flesh does not want to get involved in other people’s business, and the world says it’s not my place, my faith tells me I must, and Jesus shows me how. Armed with these truths, I pulled up my proactive parenting pants and told him that God made each and every person exactly how He saw fit, and that while he was big and strong, he could choose whether to use those muscles to build up or tear down—and I believed he wanted to be a strong builder. He looked at me, put his hands down, and smiled, as though he had never been told what good he could do. As for those sad brown eyes with the question of “Now what?” Well, they sparkled brilliantly as a smile worth more than gold broke out across the other little face God made.
I thank God for that little boy, as I have many times this year, and I continue to pray that whatever causes his heart to hurt others would be healed. I hope he grows not only in stature, but also in wisdom. And while I am a mess of a sinner making plenty of my own mistakes, I know the truth of a Savior who loves me and wants me, and you, to love everyone else. May all the Christian parents from the boardroom to the playgroup recognize that our calling goes far beyond our own children and extends to everyone we encounter.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to become My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
For His Name’s Sake,
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and one gentle, joy-filled, little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city. She loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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