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A young man joined the Marine Corps pre-Korean War, gung-ho in all his training. His loyalty and patriotism were noted by his sergeant, who then made him a platoon leader. During a highly celebrated battle, his regiment was inserted in the line at a crucial point. Mortar shells exploded around him, gunfire ricocheted off rocks and dirt, as the enemy sought to overwhelm them with their sheer numbers. Being in real combat for the first time and seeing that the enemy intended to kill him, he cried out to his sergeant, “Sarge, they are shooting at me!” His sergeant replied in a calm voice, “That’s okay, son. They may do that.”[1]

When you enter the world as a young Christian, whether for work or school, you will be challenged by people who live, believe, and teach things that are not in accordance with God’s word.  Even though you’ve prepared for these interactions through school, catechism, devotions, and church, you may still fear this direct confrontation as did the soldier from the story. As natural as the instinct is to run away, you must stand and fight. Specifically, you must fight in a manner that is “gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” This calling comes directly from 2 Timothy 2:24–25, in Paul’s letter to Timothy and the church. As those around you oppose God, you, the young Christian warrior, must teach meekly and patiently, witness through both actions and words, and trust God to use you in your interactions. 

The first calling for you is to be meek when talking to someone with whom you disagree. Meekness does not mean being quiet, not saying anything. Being meek first controls your attitude, and as a result, directs your actions. Remembering that you are no better than anyone else, you address others as patiently as God has been patient with you. Human nature causes you to be aggressive and to yell when there is disagreement. You may even be tempted to belittle someone because they don’t believe in the truth. This is not meekness nor patience.

To illustrate, looking at what this calling doesn’t mean will be helpful. If a professor teaches that God saves everyone, the wrong response is calling them “dumb” or yelling at them in class. No debate will go anywhere when there is name calling or disrespectful attitudes toward the other party, especially in such a public place as a classroom. Instead, you, as a student, should inquire about why the professor might believe this, taking the time to learn more about their upbringing and beliefs. Patiently listening to them fosters a sense of trust. You will have then set the precedent for the rest of the discussion, which is best had outside of the classroom.

This model comes from Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1–26). Rather than immediately considering her to be unworthy of his time, Jesus lovingly, patiently, and meekly listened to her as she told him who she was and what she was looking for; only after that did he address her and her sin. The words, “I can’t even believe you’d be a Samaritan,” or, “I’m better than you because I am a Jew,” do not leave Jesus’ lips, like they might leave ours to our professor or classmate. Regardless of what someone might believe, patiently listen, just as Jesus did.

The second calling as a young Christian engaging with someone who doesn’t believe the truth of God’s word is to teach. After you’ve listened to what they have to say, share with them the truth of the word of God, but do it as you’d feed a child who needs “milk” (Heb. 5:12–14). Teach concepts rather than big words that name those concepts. For someone who hasn’t had the same upbringing as you, a large word like “predestination” might be intimidating; learning first what “predestination” means is much more manageable. Feed them with milk, rather than meat like you’re used to getting. If the Lord causes the conversation to continue past the initial interaction, you may begin to share with them the “meat [that] belongeth to them that are of full age” (v. 14). Because the backgrounds of those you encounter are all different, you must teach with patience, bringing milk and not meat.

You should teach not only with your words, but also with your actions. If your life doesn’t reflect what you’ve just taught someone, then the lesson has been worthless. You must be willing to sacrifice your grade for the sake of truth. Paul writes, “Be not conformed to this world…that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). If you conform to what your professor wants you to write (not truth), you will pass the class academically but not spiritually. By writing the truth, you may not pass the class, but you will commit to the calling to be a “good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). Your professor may even see your commitment to your faith and the truth of God and become convicted through your witness.

The third and final calling for you is to trust in the power of the Lord to use your words and actions to soften the hearts of those around you. As you discuss the truths in the Bible with someone, don’t be disheartened if they leave the conversation not having submitted to God’s word. This doesn’t mean you have failed in your calling to witness or to teach. Instead, by walking away, you confess God’s power to change the heart. Your words do not bring the Holy Spirit into their hearts, nor do they “save” someone. Salvation is only by the power of God and his grace toward sinners. If you obey your calling to teach patiently, the Lord may breathe new life into those with whom you talked. How merciful is he to use sinners such as his children to bring life into a hardened heart!

Coming across someone who doesn’t believe the same thing as you is inevitable. The initial response might be dread, and you may wonder, “How can I talk with them? How will I know what to say? Am I strong enough in my faith?” You should not be worried about this because your Father in heaven “shall supply all your need according to his riches” (Phil. 4:19). Rather than dread, you should look forward to talking with people who disagree with you. See these discussions as opportunities to share the gospel of God’s grace while strengthening your faith. As you step into your college classrooms, remember the words of 2 Timothy 2 so that instead of running away and shouting, “Why are they shooting at me?” you can run toward them and shout, “I’m ready, Lord!”

 

Originally published August 2021, Vol 80 No 8

 

[1] Story told by Rev. Haak from the archives of Joel Sugg, a member of the Houston PRC.

Before you begin reading this article I want to preface it by confessing that this was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to write. I received so much emotional feedback, and because many individuals responded with such powerful and painful words, some even bringing me to tears. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

For those who don’t know, I created a survey on the topic of bullying which I had high school students take. I’ve taken those results and written an article based on them; most of what I have to say comes from high school students, with a little of my own writing as well. I know that this was not a scientific survey, but there is much to be learned from it.

I started the survey with a simple question on the definition of “bullying.” One student explained bullying as an act of judging others, where the bully breaks down someone else by means of words, actions, or social media. Another said bullies look down upon those around them, those they deem unworthy of normal treatment. The hierarchies that are created by bullies segregate the “wolves” from the “sheep;” those who are eager to prey on someone “lesser” and more vulnerable than themselves. And there are those who don’t participate in bullying, but tend to be easy targets for the bullies’ attacks.

The proof of our depravity is demonstrated in the fact that out of the students who took the survey, 68% reported having been bullied. That’s almost 7 out of every 10 students. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, and we shouldn’t be naïve to think that our schools are outside of the realm of bullying, because they aren’t. No one can escape the reach of sin, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

[1]Fig. 1

68% of students have experienced one or more of the following types of bullying: verbal, technological, physical, and emotional. From the chart above, you can see that emotional bullying is by far the greatest type of bullying students experience. Emotional bullying is the largest percentage because it encapsulates all the other types of bullying. One cannot be attacked physically or verbally without feeling some type of emotional pain as well. No two bullying experiences are the same, but most have the same consequences; emotional hurt leading to feelings of worthlessness, betrayal, fear, anxiety, and humiliation.

One student confessed how they would fake an illness to skip school because they were too afraid to face their bully, the attacks being so bad that dying felt like it would be easier than living. Another student shared that after being made fun of for having some supposedly “undesirable” trait, they felt unimportant, unloved, and attempted suicide at least twice, ending in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder from the entire ordeal. Bullying is not a light matter and shouldn’t be treated like a joke or something to be swept under the rug. There are students, adults even now, who have been brutalized to the point of severe depression.

Therefore, we need to be proactive in how we treat bullies and bullying situations. Too many bullies get away with what they’ve done to other students and too many bullied students fall through the cracks. We need to make a stand as parents, as fellow classmates, and as teachers to adequately address bullying.

With the rise of social media, which most students have, bullying is easier than ever. About 17% of the students who have been bullied have been bullied through some form of social media—Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Social media is an easy way to confront someone without having to see their physical reactions; it’s a place where bullies can hide in plain sight and erase their existence in one click, a quality that makes it all the more dangerous for younger children to have access to. Parents, be conscientious about what your children are doing, who they’re talking to, what apps they’re using, because without supervision, your child could become a bully or be bullied without you even realizing it.

Consequently, the number of students who’ve witnessed some form of bullying is 92%. Even though this number is tremendously high, only 51% acted in some way to stop bullying. Those who did do something shared what types of things they did to step in. Many stood up to face the bully while others went over after the incident and comforted the person who was bullied.

Why is there such a disconnect? If students are seeing it happening, why aren’t they doing anything about it? Someone admitted to having opportunity to stand up but didn’t, explaining, “I do not do enough. It is hard to stand up in a high school environment. You can do all [that can be done], but the bully will just find a new target.” This person seemed hopeless, not finding it worth it to stop bullying because they knew it was going to continue anyway. This seems like an excuse to sit and watch rather than to be actively helping others. We are constantly reminded that sin covers everything we do, yet we still are called to live lives pleasing to God, even when we know nothing we do will be perfect. I understand that sometimes situations do seem hopeless, but “[you] can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [you]” (Phil. 4:13). He might use your single word, “Stop!” to do great things. There is more harm in staying quiet than telling someone else about what you saw.

When you feel as if you cannot do any more, go tell a teacher or parent. Only 2 out of 86 people said that they had talked with an authoritative figure about a bullying incident. High school students, your teachers are ready and willing to help in a bad situation. They have the training, the resources, and the authority to step in when you no longer can. I encourage you to go to them with your problems, especially if you see someone being bullied, either in person or online. By doing so, you will be helping all parties involved. Not only should you go to a teacher, but you should go to God. He hears all your prayers, your cries for help. He has the power to “heal the broken in heart and bind up [your] wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

Since I requested honest answers, I asked difficult questions. I dared to ask how many had bullied other students and 35% said they had in some way. Although this number is still 1/3 of the population, I suspect the number should be higher. What does this number say about our youth? Everyone has the potential to be a bully because we all have the old man of sin badgering and tempting us to pick on and point out others’ faults. But, this doesn’t mean that we should accept the inevitable. Rather, we are called to fight back by living a holy life. Following in the footsteps of Christ is the best medicine for the epidemic. Not only must you talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Christ will give you the strength to step in and show kindness to those who need it.

We aren’t entirely helpless. We can take preventative measures to ensure the safety of our children, students, and classmates. According to some students, we can start by setting good examples through kindness and living daily lifestyles of love. A smile of encouragement, a few short words of affirmation, or a hug is a simple, yet effective, way to show the love of God to others. Use love to “overcome evil” (Rom. 12:21). As one student commented, “A little kindness can go a long way.”

Students aren’t the only ones called to treat their peers with love and respect; parents, this applies just as much to you as to your children. Your children watch everything you do and hear everything you say. As someone very dear to me used to say, “Little kids have big ears.” Yelling at the referee or your own coach because of a call or substitution you think was questionable, or replying with snark and disgust at something your spouse said are not ways to demonstrate respect and love to your children. God has given you the responsibility to teach your children the importance of kindness and respect. So, when you treat others without the respect they deserve or talk maliciously behind their backs, you are doing absolutely nothing to give your children the correct message of love.

Not only is setting a good example of kindness an important path to emulate, but also standing up and saying something to the bully is as well, as students suggested. A full conversation isn’t necessary—simply starting a conversation provokes thoughts. Words like, “Hey, please stop. It’s not nice,” puts a seed of thought into the minds of the bullies, pricking their consciences. I also want to emphasize the importance of rebuking in love. Don’t, by any means, fight fire with fire; you will only cause more issues (2 Tim. 4:2). Solomon responds to such situations in Proverbs 15:1, where he writes, “A soft answer turneth away wrath…” By speaking kindly and respectfully to the bully, you do not ostracize them, rather you give them a chance to return to love.

In no way must we have the mindset of “us vs. them”. It is always us, together. We are the body of Christ, and when one of our members struggles with a sin, we encourage them, and pray with and for them. When one of the members of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with them. When a member creates schism, our Christian calling is to fix the gaping wound in our body by using the love we have for one another, given to us by God, remembering that “the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:13).

I want to end with three simple words: pray, forgive, and hope.

Pray—for your brothers and sisters struggling with bullying, for those who have been hurt by words and physical abuse, and for yourself that God will give you strength to stand up for what’s right and to use love to help others.

Forgive—those who’ve bullied you, just as God has forgiven you.

Hope—not in ourselves, for we are weak creatures and the strength that we need is not to be found in us. Rather hope the “hope (that) maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5). In all things put your trust and confidence in God knowing that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).

 

*Macy Schimmel attends Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI and serves as Promotions Manager of Beacon Lights magazine.

[1] Fig. 1 – This chart illustrates the types of bullying that students experienced during high school. Students were able to select multiple, so there are students who have experienced more than one type. I also gave the opportunity to share an “Other” where students wrote a type I had missed, but most restated a type I had already given.

Before reading this article, it would be beneficial to read Mark Hoeksema’s editorial from the May issue of Beacon Lights.

What you read in this article may shock you. It may be something you’ve never taken into consideration. Or it may be something your parents are constantly badgering you about. Whatever the case may be, please consider what I have to say, so that we can combat such temptations and habits together.

What fellow Beacon Lights staff member, Jake Dykstra, and I decided to do was to calculate how much time we spent on social media and on our phones in general for three days as a follow-up to the previous editorial. Our findings emphasized some scary things, much to our chagrin.  Here are our findings.

For the three days, Jake used an app that tracked his total phone time, which apps he used most, longest usage time, etc. Jake’s average time spent on his phone was about two hours and thirty-one minutes. This app also recorded how many times he “quick checked” his phone (“quick checks” being turning his phone on, unlocking it, looking at the screen, and shutting off the screen). In one day, he checked his phone 95 times.

I, too, downloaded an app that tracked my phone usage, although I deleted Instagram and Snapchat weeks ago, so my data will be skewed—my usage time would have been much higher if I still had those apps. My average daily phone usage was about two hours and sixteen minutes. Instead of “quick checks,” my app counted the number of times I opened my phone in general, which was, at its peak, 154 times.

The data shocked me, as it should. Putting numbers to the amount of time I spent on my phone made how much time I was on my phone more of a reality. After I sat ashamed for a while, I began to ponder some things: what was I removing from my daily schedule to make room for my phone? If I cut down the time spent on my phone, what could I be doing instead? Daily devotions, art projects, helping more around the house, homework, interacting with my family, or learning a new hobby? The amount of time spent on my phone demonstrated a lack of prioritizing, or at least, warped priorities.

Whenever we talk about priorities, the matter becomes one of our hearts. Are they concerned with the things of God? Or are they more attached to the things of the world? Something that has stuck with me comes from one of Rev. Haak’s sermons. He said that you would know where your heart lies by what you first pick up in the morning. If you pick your phone up first, then you are giving your heart to the physical and temporal things of the world and to the devil. But, if you pick up your Bible first, then your heart belongs solely to God.

In my case, my heart was more connected to my phone than to God. I was giving my phone precedence over God, which is blatant idolatry. I didn’t even notice how my phone slowly and sneakily took over my time so that I had little to no room for God. The number of “quick checks” alone demonstrated this.

God warns of such idols taking over our lives in ­­­­Matthew 6:24, but rather than using the “idol,” he inspired Matthew to write “master.” The word master connotates a hierarchical relationship, the master controlling his servant, the servant obeying every command. It isn’t a coincidence that God chose this word because if we really think about it, our phones have become our masters. Our lives revolve around them, their battery life, and the amount of data we have left. They ring, vibrate, or chime, and we come running, like any good servant would.

Our phones might not be graven images, but they can take over our lives just as naturally, effectively, and entirely as any pagan god. Through a combination of our sinful natures and Satan’s deceptive ploys, we are susceptible. Satan tells us that having our phones nearby is a good thing in case someone needs to contact us in an emergency or so that we can quickly Google something we have a question on. Don’t get me wrong, these can be good things, but, as the saying goes, you give an inch, he will take a mile. Once Satan has his foot in the door, it will be difficult to get him out.

Checking our phones only for emergency calls or texts becomes a constant checking of our other social media apps or mindless games. As we sink deeper into the social acceptance of being on our phones constantly, our master, the phone, takes full control, rather than our master God. I know that I am at a point where I can’t tell who controls me more, God or my phone.

How can I change this? I don’t want to be reined to my phone, a bit in my mouth, but I want to be able to feel free, which God offers to me. I want him to be my master, not some technological device that can only offer me brief satisfaction and instantaneous contact.

I challenge you to join me in the next couple of weeks to participate in a few things to help us lose the addiction, break the bonds our earthly master, and let God command our lives. First, I advise you to get an app that calculates your phone usage. It helped Jake and me uncover what our sinful natures didn’t want us to see, showing us our need for God. Second, delete those apps that lure you in, that you spend too much time on. It will hurt at first, believe me, but in the end, you’ll find that they aren’t worth the time you give them. Third, every time you want to “quick check” your phone, pick up something else instead, like a book, some homework, your Bible, etc. This diversion should help you forget about your phone for the time being. Fourth, pray for yourselves and your brothers and sisters in Christ as you all struggle with this addiction. The best way to be comforted comes from direct conversation between you and God (Matt. 26:41; John 14:16; 2 Cor. 13:4–9, James 5:16). Fifth, if you feel as if your efforts to change are pointless, and you want to give in to the temptations of your phone, trust that God is your strength (Ps. 46:1) and will never leave you to fend for yourself, even after you turned from him. He carries you through the battle against your earthly master, your phone. Sixth, reorganize your priorities. Put God first in your life because he’s most important and all that matters.

So, I ask one more time, where does your heart lie? Will you pick your phone up first tomorrow? Or will you pick up your Bible?

Grace Schimmel was born August 27, 1926 to George and Nellie Kamps. Over the course of her long and full life, she had seven children, 31 grandchildren, and over 50 great-grandchildren. Her past times included lively card games with friends and family, heated debates around the dinner table, Dutch bingo, and painting (which she was very gifted in). Her laugh was contagious, and she always had a spring in her step. She was my role model, my fountain of knowledge, and my grandma.

While she was still on this earth, she taught me many things about life. She was as wise as an owl, and quick like a fox, even as she got older. A lot of the times her advice didn’t come directly from things she told me; rather, some came from her daily walk.

Trust in the Lord (Prov. 3: 5–6): Day to day, week to week, my grandma always had a positive attitude. Back then, I didn’t know how she did it, with the news about her cancer always being negative and her growing pile of pill bottles making its home on the counter. From the world’s perspective, she should have just given up.

Now, as a more mature Christian, I can see what she saw: God’s hand upholding her. She trusted in God to carry her through each day, just as a little girl trusts her father. She knew that he would never leave her or forsake her. Her positive attitude came from the knowledge she had that God would take care of her. The frequent reminders of life’s frailty were God nudging her closer towards his outstretched hand, which she clung to with all of her heart.

Spend as much time with your family as you can (Job 1; Job 14:2): As a young child, I didn’t like going over to my grandparents’ house. They were too big, too loud, and too scary. As I got older, I learned to love their company as one loves the company of friends. I always looked forward to flying around the curves of Leonard Street because I knew that it meant going to Grandma’s house. I was older, so I was able to stick my two cents in during discussions and was sometimes even asked my own opinion, which made me feel pretty important. The loud giants were gone, and fun-loving teddy bears had taken their place.

I didn’t see this back then, but the time I had with my elderly grandparents was limited. My grandma especially taught me that this time I had with family was special and shouldn’t be squandered. She made every minute that we were together count. God had blessed her with this family, so she had better influence us as much as she could before she was gone. I also think that we were just a joy to be around, so she could never get enough of us.

Sadly, I learned this lesson the hard way. Long story short, I had an opportunity to spend time with my grandparents the weekend before my grandmother peacefully, yet suddenly, passed away. I didn’t take it; I spent time with friends instead. To this day, I regret that decision.

So, take it from me, make the most of your time with your family. You don’t know how long you have with them. And believe me, every moment is entirely worth it.

Be wise in whom you date (1 John 2:15; 2 Corinthians 6:14a; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 3:18–19): The weekend before she died, my grandma gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received. As I was about to run off with some friends (some of them boys), she told me with a knowing look and a smile, “I want to approve of the boy you date.” I just smiled back at her, gave her a hug, and quickly ran back to where my friends were waiting for me.

At the time, I just brushed off what she had said because dating for me was too far away for me to even think about. But now, this simple phrase weighs heavily on me. How can I find someone who measures up to my grandma’s standards? I can’t just be going and dating anyone that I kind of like. He has to have the marks of a true man of God, which my grandma saw in Grandpa. Even though she is no longer here, my decision must be based upon the Christian doctrines she passed down to me. She taught me that a spouse has to lead me and run with me closer to Christ, rather than carry me away from him.

Pray without ceasing (Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:17): Something that I personally tend to forget to do is to pray. I make excuses like, “I didn’t have time,” or, “I was just too hungry, so I couldn’t wait.” This has become a horribly bad habit that I just can’t seem to break.

My grandmother had a very healthy prayer life; she always prayed when prayer was needed, and even if it wasn’t, she prayed. She even kept a prayer journal with pages full of prayer requests and things to remember to pray about so that she knew exactly what she was going to say.

As I write this, I see my huge need for prayer. My relationship with God is built off of prayer. So, if I’m not taking the time to pray, then my spiritual life will die. Her example is what I should follow after so that I make time for prayer. Rather, I should pray first, before I make time for anything else.

Love God with all your heart and show it (James 1:22; Matthew 22:37): God was the center of my grandma’s life. Her zeal for God was insurmountable. She loved God with all her heart and knew his word like she knew the rules to all her favorite card games. Even a lot of the discussions that we had had at the dinner table usually revolved around news stories which she would dissect using her Christian worldview. She talked the talk, and also walked the walk, which seems to be a disconnect in most people’s lives today.

Not only did she love God in her heart, she loved him in her actions. Grandma made sure that her walk reflected her love for God. She did this by serving others. I remember seeing her knitting needles and yarn basket by her armchair next to the fire full of started projects that she was going to give to others. She also liked to crochet the edges of blankets for new babies, which all of her grandkids have.

Actions such as these weren’t the only way she showed God’s love. She herself loved others with this love. She cared deeply for her friends and family, using her homemade dinners, words of kindness, or her time to show her love. My heart throbs with godly pride when people tell me how much they loved her and how much she meant to them.

Her life was an example of what she believed. With this walk, she showed true thankfulness to God, as well as being a witness to those around her, Christian or not. There isn’t a day that I don’t miss her, even though her influence surrounds me, but I am assured that someday I will see her again.

For all of you reading this, go visit your grandparents. The elderly generation has so many important things to say and are more than happy to share them with you. I know that as young adults, we need good role-models and solid advice. Who better to fit the bill than those that have lived almost a century? Elderly people, as we all know, aren’t here forever, so we should feel a stronger urgency to spend time with them. I assure you, not only will you learn lessons, but also a variety of card games. It’s worth it.

 

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