The School Bully

Imagine settling into a new school and being accosted by a school bully who demands that you pay him money each week. You survive the meeting and then ask others what the story is with this bully.

You find out that everyone is paying money to the bully. You find that the teachers have no plan to stop the bully’s activities. You also find that the bully isn’t regarded as a bully, but just part of normal life at the school.

It turns out that the “bully”, as you call him, has had his place passed to him through generations of bullies. Payment of the bully levy is a tradition that goes back as far as anyone can remember. School teachers rely on the bully to help them maintain order in the school, even though they know he has self-interest as well. They see the arrangement as both normal and appropriate.

When you decide to stand up to the bully everyone looks at you in horror. You are urged to stop your bizarre behaviour and to just get used to the way things are. The whole social order is built on the status quo. Would-be bullies are competing with each other for the honour of displacing the incumbent. The more offended victims have their support groups. A code of penalties has been defined and each new student is briefed in the mechanisms of the school-yard order.

Most alarming in this whole situation is that anyone who stands up to the perverse system is confronted on all sides. You encounter apathy or antagonism from those who should support you; despisement and oppression from the bully system that seeks to rule you; and abandonment from the authority figures who should have stopped this situation long ago.

Now, that’s just a fanciful scenario. But it is an allegory for situations which occur around the world.

At Sydney University in the early 1970’s, for example, I confronted compulsory Student Union membership. The Student Union engaged in many activities which offended my personal values and which I would never engage in. I saw no reason why I should be forced to pay anything to what seemed like a group of self-indulgent people who used their position to peddle their own ideology and morality. However, that was the system. There was no changing it, so it seemed. Thankfully, in subsequent years compulsory student unionism was abandoned.

The same situation may be seen in workplaces where a strong union presence imposes compulsory union membership on anyone who wants to work there.

Yet again, in some cultures the police force is corrupt and imposes various unwarranted penalties on people. I was once pulled over by a traffic policeman who was not interested in giving me a genuine penalty, but sought some “coffee money” from me.

Totalitarian regimes impose this “school-yard bully” system at a national level. Various limitations are imposed on their constituents, which people are powerless to object to.

I am not saying in all this that forced subscriptions are necessarily evil, or that unions, police forces or governments are suspect. I simply use these examples to illustrate a point. I am drawing your attention to the fact that some situations are actually oppressive and out of order.

Now, the correct way to deal with such situations, if it is possible, is to take the matter to higher and higher authorities, until someone resolves what is out of order, putting it right. In many situations even the judiciary is compromised or intimidated and true justice is denied the citizenry. In those situations the only court in which effective appeal can be made is before the throne of God.

Reading the book of Ecclesiastes recently I noted Solomon’s awareness that God is the true Sovereign in all of life’s situations. While men will oppress others and ply their evil agendas, those who trust in God and are not overcome by the evil of others, have the best outcome.

Being consumed in rage at the system means you have been overcome by evil. Making it your life passion to right the wrong system may also be a sign that you have been overcome by evil. You were not created to be moved by your enraged sensibilities, but to fulfil God’s plan for your life. If He calls you to deal with the system in some way, then you will have to do it. But that won’t be for self-gratification or to get even for wrongs experienced, or any other personal agenda. You will be most effective when you can be dispassionate and focus your affections on Him and His glory, rather than being moved along by personal arousal.

School-yard bullies exist in many contexts. You may be called at some point to do something about it. But if you are, it will be God’s call, not yours. The methods and all that is part of the process will be at God’s behest, not your own direction. If you engage in the process with that kind of spirit you will be a worthy instrument in God’s hands to see His Kingdom come and His will done on earth as it is in Heaven.

To My Useless Friends

What are you really able to do of yourself? If you were not useless you’d be dangerous. Praise God you are hopeless and useless. That way God is glorified.

If you could do things of yourself and make things happen the way you want them to, then you would be tempted to do evil things. If evil people have the power to get ahead by evil actions then everyone would be tempted to become evil. Your uselessness is a great protection for all of humanity.

Uh?

Solomon explains it like this. “A man will not be established by wickedness”. Wicked actions do not bring lasting benefits and perpetual profit. The root of the righteous, however, will not be moved, no matter what wickedness is thrown against him (see Proverbs 12:3).

The reason for this limitation is God. God gives favour to good people and He condemns a person of wicked devices (see Proverbs 12:2). So, what can you do of yourself? You are totally dependent on God for lasting benefits from your actions. If you honour and follow Him then you can expect His blessings. If you rebel against Him and do evil, there is nothing you can do to protect yourself against Him.

Now, that’s what is indicated in the ‘fear of God’. When we realise that the consequences of our actions are not what we produce by our actions, but what God does in response to them, then we are awakened to the fear of God. We can do nothing toward our personal success, but keenly follow God’s instructions, leading to great success. Or we can do everything in our power to gain success, while rejecting God and His wisdom, and find that we have no chance of success.

God is the true arbiter of the outcomes. God controls the events and rewards us for our heart toward Him. Unless the Lord protects our assets, we are wasting our time trying to do it ourselves. And unless the Lord is supportive of our attempts to make progress, we are wasting our efforts to get there by ourselves. For King David’s take on this check out Psalm 127:1.

“Except the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.” Psalm 127:1

So, my useless friends, your greatest asset is not your personal assets, but your relationship with God’s incredible assets – which puts us all on a level-playing-field, all equally able to do the impossible and live in the miraculous, all equally useless and all equally open to the fullness of eternity operating in our lives.

It turns out I’m as useless as you, so we have plenty in common. Let’s be friends.