A Herd of Black Sheep?
Have you ever felt like an outcast? Have you ever seen someone sitting off by themselves? Have you ever felt so alone in a crowd of people?
All these things are a result of groups. Society is full of cliques and limited extension of human interaction between and among groups.
We all tend to lean towards a group of people that are like-minded with us. We enjoy the company of those that also enjoy similar activities, interests, and hobbies.
However, does that define you? How do you define yourself?
It is interesting to see how people define themselves. We have to first start with this question. What defines you? Is it your athleticism? Is it your artistic or music abilities? Is is the group of friends you associate with? Or is it even the negativity that others pour onto you? To start this thought process and conversation off right, I would ask you to go to the following link and listen to the story of Lizzie Velasquez.
She is a living example that we cannot let being seen as the outcast define us. In the Bible, in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul is addressing the cultural issue of not being seen as an asset because of your age or assumed knowledge or skill set. He says, “ Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” This is the way we are to live our lives. Yes, there are groups all around us, but we are called to live a life for Christ no matter what others say or do to us. It also says in Matthew 5:39, “ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” We are not to retaliate, but rather extend grace and love to them as Christ would. Lizzie did just that by not fighting back, or listening to them when they told her to kill herself. By doing so, she now has a testimony that speaks to those very people who were against her so much louder than if she would have retaliated and tried to make them suffer too.
In the words of Paul again, in Philippians 1:21, “ For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” We have a purpose for being on this earth. God created us in His image and chose to add us to His team even though we add no benefit to Him. We are put here to glorify Him, and a way of doing that is to follow the greatest commandments. That is
“ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” With not letting others define you, or speaking bad against them, you are loving them and in return showing Gods love to them as well. This is just what we are called as Christians to do. Agreeably, at times it is much easier to say than to do, but we need to strive after this not halfheartedly, but fully.
On the other side of the coin, let us take a look at the bully themselves. They tend to pick on people who are unlike themselves. It is interesting to me to look around me every day at school, work or even just walking through a mall. People break off into categories and groups all around us. If they dress in all black, and have their hair in their face with lots of piercings we label them as “goth”. If they are decked out in workout gear and look fit, we label them as “athletic”. If they are dressed in very nice clothes and look put together, we label that group as “preppy”. Everyone has a natural inclination towards one group over others due to personal likes and dislikes. The group that always has stood out to me the most is like the following.
Picture this, You are in middle school again, 6th grade. It is the first school dance you have ever gone to. You have all the girls on one side, boys on the other. Within those macro-groups, you have micro-groups. The chess team boys, the athletic boys, the barbie wanna be girls, they awkward phase girls, and best of all you have those who are smack dab in the middle of the dance floor who say “i don’t care what anyone else thinks”. Funny thing is, when have you ever seen just one middle schooler, girl or boy, out in the middle of the floor? They always say they are going to stand out and not care what others think, yet that in of itself tends to form a group of like-minded people. The want to break away from “the group” or “cliques” yet form their own as a group of people who do not want to be like anyone else. Funny how that works!
With that said, is there ever truly a black sheep? Or is it a herd of black sheep?
I would argue that they may feel like the black sheep depending on the people they surround themselves with. If you are really into reading and not so much into sports, then placing yourself in the middle of the volleyball girls lunch table is creating a situation for you to feel like the odd one out. I would say that everyone has their thing and it is just a matter of finding others who enjoy the same things as well.
What then is the Christian response to all this?
Lets take a minute and look at some of the movies that have been released in the past couple years. In 1984 the great “Karate Kid” came out. The whole premise of this movie was teaching the boy, or karate kid, self defense and other life lessons because he was being bullied at his new school. In 2004, “Mean Girls” was released and that movie is all about singling out the “black sheep” or trying to find a way in, so that you are not viewed as the one on the outside.
The famous line, “You can’t sit with us” was coined from this movie and captures the stigma most groups give off. In 2011, “Cyberbully” was released and addressed the serious implications that can be caused through media and negativity.
Now as Christians, it is not wrong for us to have preferences. However, it is wrong to treat others differently just because they stand apart from us, or do not have similar interests as we do. In Luke 6:31 it says, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” You would not want to be treated as an outcast, because you do not have the same preferences as others. Therefore, as it tells us, we should treat them no different. Another thing we are called to do is simply to love others more than ourselves. Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Furthermore, 1 John 4:7–8 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” This lays it out plain and simple for us. We are to love, like Christ chose to love us. If we do not choose to love others, we are choosing not to obey God. It may also expose to us that we may not even be a follower of God, shown through our actions.
Matthew 5:44 explains, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” This shows weather we are particularly found on the person or not, we still need to extend grace and love to them as we would hope they would do to us also.
I like to think (coming from the glass half full mentality) that if both of these sides were correctly handled bullying in of itself would become virtually nonexistent. If the person receiving the persecution, such as Lizzie, responds correctly by turning the other cheek and finding your identity in Christ and not the world, and the person who could potentially bully would treat others with respect and love as they would want to be treated, then where is the room for bullying? However, it exists because we are all born with a sin nature, and that is exactly why we need a glorious Savior!