What Does the Bible Say about Bullying?
The Bible doesn’t mention the word “bullying” specifically, but it is full of clear verses that relate to this topic. Let’s look at what the Bible teaches about bullying, how to respond to being bullied, and what Christians should do when others are being bullied.
What truths found in the Bible apply to bullying?
We should love and serve others above ourselves.
The Bible is very clear that Christians are to love others as much as we naturally love ourselves. Jesus demonstrated God’s view of how we should love by taking on the role of a servant. As the Son of God, he had every right to come to this world as a king to be glorified, but instead he came in humility and put others before himself. We want to follow his example in our lives.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! – Philippians 2:3-8
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you. – John 15:12
He [Jesus] answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Luke 10:27
Love is action.
How do we love others? We build them up with our words and actions, which is the exact opposite behavior of a bully. In fact, the Bible says anyone who hates another person is still in the dark spiritually. Our lives as saved Christians should be marked by the fruits of the Spirit and we should try each day to turn away from our old sinful ways, and live lives of love, righteousness, and peace with others.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:29-32
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. – 1 John 2:9-10
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. – 2 Timothy 2:22-23
God shows us how we can and should respond to being bullied.
God’s radical method of responding to bullies is not what our hearts naturally want to do. First, God teaches that we should not respond in anger with harsh words or fighting. Instead, we should respond in gentleness and love, taking comfort in Jesus’ words that we are blessed when we are persecuted.
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
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. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:7-12
Second, God tells us that we are to forgive just as Jesus forgave us and not just once, but “seventy-seven times," which means we need to forgive anytime we are wronged.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:12-14
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21-22
Third, we can take comfort remembering that Jesus faced the same trials while he was on earth and now he is in heaven serving as our high priest, bringing our prayers before God the Father. When we are bullied, we can cast our troubles to God in prayer and he hears us and will answer our prayers.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7
Finally, continuing to follow Jesus’ example, we love our enemies. This isn’t easy in our human strength, but filled with God’s Spirit we are able to live this way. The amazing thing is when people see our loving response, it is a huge testimony to the hope that we have in Christ and we have the opportunity to share the reason for this hope.
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. – Romans 12:14, 17-20
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. – Luke 6:27-36
“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:8-17
As Christians, we cannot ignore when someone is being bullied.
God is loving, caring, and just; he wants us to show his character in the way that we live our lives. Therefore, God’s desire is that we show love to the outcast, broken, or weak. In fact, when we don’t defend someone, we are sinning. However, in standing up for others, let us make sure that we don’t treat the bully badly. Instead, let us do good to all.
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:26-27
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. – James 4:17
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. – Galatians 6:9-10
HOW DOES THE BIBLE OFFER HOPE TO THOSE BEING BULLIED?
The value of who you are isn’t dependent on the opinion of others.
God intricately designed you, loves you, and has a plan for your life. You are his precious creation. He loves you so much, he was willing to let his own son, Jesus, die for you. Just because someone else fails to see that, doesn’t change this incredible truth.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. – Psalm 139:13-16
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7
Find more bullying resources in part two: Bullying Q&A