Contributed by Dennis Sepper, Pacific Lutheran University


Warm-up Question

Did you help someone out today?  How?  How did it make you feel?

Proactive Love

Dateline El Cajon, California…By Brian Flores, FOX 5 San Diego Reporter
More than 600 El Cajon students created signs and formed a human chain around  an elementary school Thursday, pledging to make it a “bully-free  school.”  “This is a no  bullying zone, and we’re not going to put up with it,” said Bostonia  Elementary School principal Cindy White.  White’s school held several events on campus during the week to  remind and teach students about bullying and how to prevent it.  “We haven’t had as much of a problem as  we have now,” said White. “We do have bullying incidences that happen  down to our kindergarten level.”

 It’s not just in  El Cajon where students are taking a stand. Bullying remains a nationwide  problem.  According national statistics,
more than 13 million students have experienced some form of bullying.  In San Diego, about 10 percent of students  drop out of school because of repeated bullying, according to the San Diego  Office of Education.  “Sometimes it’ll be racially motivated. It may be motivated by how a student looks, how a student acts,” said White.  “When you have one child that’s more  dominant that tends to over and over confront another student, than that is  bullying.”  White said this is a  statement that students, staff, parents, and the community need to make bully-free schools.  “We are  committed to ensuring a bully-free school and every one of us has a part in making that happen,” said White.  [end  of article]

Bullying is a serious problem in our schools from  the elementary level right through college. According to the National Education Association 160,000 students stay  home from school everyday due to bullying.  Think about that for a moment…every day160,000 students are so afraid that they do not have the  courage to go to school.  Can we agree  that this statistic is not only nuts, but unacceptable?

The  month of October is National  Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  As  Christians who are called to love all, even our enemies, and to speak up on  behalf of those who cannot speak up for themselves, can’t we do something about  this?  I’m not talking about “going rogue”  which is the world’s response, but working together as the “Body of Christ” to  bring some hope to those who live in fear.

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think some people become bullies?
  • Does your school have an anti-bullying program?  Do you think it works?
  • What do you think might help reduce bullying in your school?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 23, 2011 (Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18;

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Matthew 22:34-46

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In the twenty-second chapter of Matthew Jesus is confronted by the religious authorities on a number of occasions.  Today we are told that after Jesus had quieted the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together to test Jesus by trying to force Jesus to pick one of the commandments over the others.  Jesus doesn’t fall for the trick.  Instead Jesus quotes two very well known (to the Jews of Jesus’ day) Old Testament passages.  The first is called the Shema which every Jew recited often.  It is from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  Jesus then adds a passage from Leviticus 19:18 (our first reading for today): “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, you may note that while the Pharisees asked for one commandment, Jesus gave two commandments.  That is the unique thing about this passage.  Jesus links the love of God with the love of neighbor and self.  Don’t be fooled by the phrase “and a second is like it.”  For Jesus the two are equal and flow in and out of each other as if it were one commandment.  As we love God with all we have, we are naturally drawn to love our neighbor.

When Martin Luther reformed the Church, he too linked love of God with love of neighbor.  In his Small Catechism (which many of you are now familiar with, right?) Luther’s explanations to the commandments state how we should love our neighbor and be “proactive” in our serving of neighbor.  For example, Luther’s explanation to the eighth commandment “You shall not bear false witness” (which seems to apply to the bullying issue!) Luther states:  “We are fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations.  Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” (italics mine).

This is the link to the bullying issue mentioned above.  Our fellow students are our neighbors.  We are not only to comfort those who are being bullied (reactive love which is very, very good and helpful) but we are also called to show proactive love, a love that works against the evil of bullying.  We can do that by praying for the victims of bullying (and for the bully…remember we are to also love our enemies!), we can band together with one another, teachers and parents to work against bullying as the folks in El Cajon are doing, and we can speak out as we feel safe and able against bullying.  If we totally ignore the problem we only allow it to continue.  Jesus and Martin Luther suggest we do more than that…that we show forth our love of God by loving and protecting our neighbor.

Discussion Questions

  •  Do you agree with Jesus linking the love of God with love of neighbor?  Why or why not?
  • The prophets often spoke a proactive love to the people of God and were treated badly for it.  What are some of the obstacles to showing proactive love toward our neighbor especially around the issue of bullying?
  • What is one thing you will commit yourself to this week to work against bullying?  For suggestions visit this website:

Activity Suggestions

Gather your Youth Group or friends, write a script and make your own anti-bullying video!  For inspiration watch this YouTube video by
“the Mustache Man”.

 Closing Prayer

Gracious and loving God, send you Holy Spirit upon us.  Fill us with a strong and sincere love for you.  May it be so strong that it empowers us to love our neighbor and work for the common good.  Be with all those who are afraid this day to even do the simple task of going to school.  Give them courage and hope and if it be your will, use us as instruments to work against the evil of bullying.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Love incarnate.  Amen.