Recently my daughter told my husband and me the kind of story that simultaneously makes a mother want to weep and put on her boxing gloves. It took place almost three years ago when we were missionaries overseas and my girls were enrolled in the local national school, as well as a variety of after school activities. Suffice it to say, my daughter shared with us how she was bullied by students and teachers alike.
When the story was over I wanted to break down and sob on her behalf and I also wanted to board a plane, march back into that city, and impart a piece of my mind to her aggressors. Clearly, that’s not possible and it wouldn’t be wise if it was.
But what is the right response for Christian parents when our children are bullied?
Remember That Jesus Was Bullied
As Christ followers “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Rather we are loved by a Savior who was spat upon, slapped, mocked, betrayed, bound, falsely accused, stripped, beaten, flogged and ultimately killed (Matthew 26 and 27, John 19). Jesus, though he himself was perfect in every way, was bullied and mistreated. He knows what it feels like.
Remember That the Father Saw His Son Bullied
God the Father knows what it’s like to have a child unjustly hurt by others. The Father sees and knows and understands the pain of our children and the grief of our hearts as moms and dads. He has been there too. He is indeed the God who sees (Genesis 16:13).
Remember That We Are Called to Pray for Our Enemies
Admittedly, our first reaction to our daughter’s story was not to pray for her bullies. But Jesus clearly instructs us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When Jesus suffered the ultimate act of bullying and neared death on the cross he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Remember That We Are Called to Turn the Other Cheek
Jesus is clear in his instruction and own example to us, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). These are hard words and run contrary to our immediate reflex. As parents we must bear in mind the words of Paul and also impress them upon our children, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Remember That We Are Called to Protect the Vulnerable
We see clearly Jesus’s affection for children when he welcomed them, embraced them and said to his disciples, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). As Christ followers we must tenaciously protect not only our children, but children everywhere. We must impart this truth to our kids and teach them empathy and to protect the weak as far as they are able. As parents we must be vigilant and watchful—quick to remove our children from harm’s way and willing to bring those who harm children into the light.
Remember to Trust God
Turning the other cheek while also protecting the vulnerable is not an easy and automatic response for parent or child. We must lean on the Lord and cry out to him for wisdom in each situation.
Ultimately, we are comforted and strengthened in remembering that Jesus was bullied, the Father watched his Son be bullied, and that the Lord “works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6). We can trust his good and sovereign and just hands.
It’s too late for me to intervene on my daughter’s behalf to protect her from her bullies. I am sickened to realize that she was in harm’s way and I had no idea. But today we can rehearse the truth together and we can pray for her former bullies. My husband and I can commit ourselves to protecting our daughters and we can ask God to redeem for good what was meant for evil (Genesis 50:20).
This article originally appeared here.