As kids, it didn’t take my friends and I very long to realize that the chant “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” could be translated” “As long as we don’t hit you but ‘merely’ make fun of you, we won’t get in trouble.” Of course, my friends and I grew up during a time when the common response from adults to children who were being bullied was, “toughen up!”
During the 80s and into the 90s, bullying was not the hot-button topic that it is today. In the 2010s, however, schools have multiple anti-bullying programs throughout the year to instruct the students on how to combat bullying. Websites exist for the sole purpose of reporting online bullying. Colleges have entire departments with the objective of eradicating bullying on campus. Safe Spaces exist.
For those on the left, the abolishment of bullying has become a cause du jour. Beyond “brick and mortar” anti-bullying programs, so to speak, much effort is being trained on fighting back against cyberbullying. Twitter has notoriously embarked on a campaign to make their service a safe space. The federal government has a website devoted to the prevention of cyberbullying. The online world is awash with SJWs crying foul at any perceived cyberbullying that flickers across their screens. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the attachment of anti-bullying with progressivism has caused many Christians to remain silent in the face of the growing sin of cyberbullying.
Except that Christians, of all people, should be the most resolute in standing firm against all forms of violence, verbal and physical, enacted on fellow humans. First and foremost, Christians should denounce cyberbullying because humans are made in the image of God. In a nutshell, that means that cruelty directed towards humans is also cruelty directed toward God. Cyberbullying is not just an attack on the image bearer of God but is also an attack on God.
Beyond that, cyberbullying is the act of using words to demonstrate hate toward a fellow human. God has called Christians to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To do so requires demonstrating, through word and deed, love and compassion for those whom the Holy Spirit has brought into our lives, and that includes people we interact with online. How can we expect people to listen to us when we tell them the good news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus if our online speech is otherwise characterized by vitriol and the belittlement of others? Going a step further, for the sake of the gospel and out of love for fellow image bearers, Christians should be some of the first to gently rebuke cyberbullying.
Unfortunately, as cyberbullying exponentially grows, many Christians are not staking out a position of love in defense of those who are being hurt. And make no mistake, people are being hurt. Cyberbullying and its accompanying anonymity have dredged up the worst in many people. Online conversations are peppered with vile communication as humans seek to hurt other humans, and the resulting pain is real and brings with it real damage. In many situations, using the old-school mantra “toughen up!” as advice is contrary to what the Bible teaches about caring for and edifying others.
When individuals are subjected to spiteful, venomous, and personal attacks online, Christians should have as one of their priorities the building up of the person being attacked. We are commanded to show love to our neighbors. At times, showing love to others requires discernible action; personally abstaining from cyberbullying may not be enough. Kind words and public messages of love have the power to go a long way towards acting as an anecdote for the verbal malice threatening to plunge a fellow image bearer into personal despair. While posting words of encouragement in the midst of cyberbullying, Christians should also be willing to endure the scorn of the cyber bully. That’s a demonstration of love that will go a long way towards softening the hearts of people who need to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus gave his life for those who hated him. As recipients of Jesus’ selfless love, Christians should be seeking ways to demonstrate selfless love to others. Pushing back on cyberbullying through edifying and loving speech is a way to do that. Cyberbullying is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, recognizing that, Christians should take an active and vocal stand against all forms of verbal violence.