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Some of what follows was taken from my book The Harry Potter Bible Study: Enjoying God through the Final Four Harry Potter Movies
Bullies and bullying are growing problems in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Some children have committed suicide as a result of such bullying. How should Christian parents respond?
Jesus teaches us how Christians should respond to persecution in Matthew 5:38-42:
38 You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
These verses seem to suggest that Christians are never to fight against those who try to hurt them, but what about the command from Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39)? If loving ourselves according to Christ’s words means never protecting our lives, then if we love our neighbors as ourselves, one may assume we should never protect their lives either.
In September 2011, a former deacon walked into Lakeland Church in Florida, after murdering his own wife, and shot his pastor in the back of the head as he knelt praying. The shooter then fired three bullets into the associate pastor, but was tackled by some other congregants before he could do more damage. Based on the words of Christ above, were these Christians wrong to stop this man from shooting other people? No, because it seems Jesus’s point in the Sermon on the Mount is to declare the end of the theocracy in Israel.
Jesus has fulfilled the Law (Matt. 5:17). Christians are no longer under the Law of Israel in a civil sense, but are instead under the civil law of the local government (Rom. 13:1-7). Thus, God’s holiness is no longer directly associated with a specific national people on earth. His holiness is, instead, associated with His church through Christ. This church of Christ, however, although existing on earth, is part of a heavenly kingdom that is not part of this world (John 18:36). Hence, Jesus’s command to “turn the other cheek” must be applied only to Christians who are suffering because they are members of this heavenly kingdom. In Israel, the reason for the attack had little significance, for the “eye for an eye” law remained. But Jesus says that since His kingdom has come, the reason for the attack has huge significance. Hurting other humans in the civil kingdom may be avenged by the sword (Rom. 13:1-7), but persecution of the heavenly kingdom may not be avenged except by God (Rom. 12:18-21).
God has judged the sins of His people in Christ, thus reconciling them to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18). As a result, Christians too must carry out their ministry of reconciliation with their enemies since they are part of His heavenly kingdom and this heavenly ethic (2 Cor. 5:17-21). Just as Christ suffered for His church, Christians too should arm themselves with the same mind by being willing to suffer for the name of Christ (1 Pet. 4:1-2).
David VanDrunen, Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Westminster Seminary California, communicates this reality well:
Finally, the legitimacy of self-defense depends upon the context: am I being assailed as just another citizen of the civil kingdom or as a disciple of Jesus and hence as a member of the church? If an individual Christian is threatened by a burglar who breaks into his home to steal his property, this is an ordinary civil matter, and the Christian (who, in this setting, just happens to be a Christian) is free (and perhaps even obligated?) to defend himself or seek coercive legal remedy. But if an individual Christian is threatened because of her Christian faith, because she is identified with Christ as a member of his church, then is non-retaliation perhaps the appropriate response? The context of Matt 5:38-42 suggests an affirmative answer. Jesus most likely envisions his disciples being slapped, stripped, and conscripted not in ordinary civil disputes but specifically as his disciples: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (5:10-11). The apostolic example suggests that Christians, in the face of state action, may peaceably appeal to the civil government to abide by its own laws (e.g., Acts 22:25-29). The apostles, however, never retaliated when government officials treated them unjustly and never pursued legal action against those who persecuted them. The disruption of the civil kingdom may be avenged by the sword but the persecution of the kingdom of heaven may not.
In other words, if a bully persecutes you because you’re a Christian, enjoy the fact that even the devil and his servants recognize you’re a Christian (Acts 5:41). However, if a bully attacks you for other reasons, you should protect the image of God in you (or others, for that matter) as an act of obedience to Christ (Col. 1:16-17). The attack is not a heavenly kingdom matter (Gen. 1:26) but, rather, one suffered as a result of citizenry in the fallen civil kingdom (Rom. 13:1-7).
Concerning the protection of your family, do not strip them of the privilege of suffering for the sake of Christ if they are Christians and so choose (Luke 6:22). If someone merely wants to snuff out the image of God in them, then protect your wife and children to the point of laying down your life for them (Eph. 5:25). Christians are not to be doormats in the civil kingdom since we are indeed citizens here (Rom. 13:1-7; Col. 1:16-17). However, we are not yet fully living in the heavenly kingdom where perfect justice reigns, and serving Christ in this life may take the form of a doormat from time to time. In other words, persecute me for being a Christian, and I will let you with joy; persecute me for being a human being, and you will have a fight on your hands. . . and I’m a biter! So, with my children, I plan to teach them to protect the image of God in them and in others with physical force. On the other hand, once they profess Christ, I will encourage them to count it a blessing when they suffer for being a Christian.
Bullying cannot and should not be tolerated by teachers or parents, and until lawmakers and the public school system is able to adequately answer the problem of bullying, parents should get involved sooner rather than later. The student-to-teacher ratio in the public school system and in private schools makes bullying difficult to prevent and stop. Add to this the reality that most students will not tell teachers or parents they’re being bullied, and we have a serious problem on our hands. Moreover, the addition of telephones and texting, and the Internet and social media make bullying a 24/7 virtually unending problem. As adults, we know that one day the bullying we’re enduring will end, but to a child, time seems longer and the present more important and inescapable. Parents must be sensitive to any changes in the behavior of their children, so that they may recognize if their children are being bullied. The sad nature of bullying is that the bully has power over his or her victim. Escaping this power may seem impossible and hopeless. Never underestimate your child’s response to bullying. Seek an immediate remedy, preferably with the consent of your child.
To summarize, if your children are being bullied at school with physical force (not due to being a Christian), encourage them to protect the image of God in themselves and others. Of course, tell them to seek the help of a teacher (the local authority), if they can. If they are unable to seek the help of a teacher due to an immediate threat, teach them to fight the bully or bullies until the bullying stops. Tell them to arm themselves with the mind of Christ, for He was willing to suffer for His Father’s glory and His neighbor’s salvation (1 Pet. 4). When bullying occurs, parents should get involved as soon as possible, and if the bullying is persistent, parents should seek other means of education for their children. Homeschool, private school, a different public school, or seeking a GED are all possible alternatives for educating one’s children.
 David VanDrunen, “Bearing Sword in the State, Turning Cheek in the Church: A Reformed Two-Kingdoms Interpretation of Matthew 5:38-42,” Themelios 34, no. 3 (2009): 334.