Summary: The only Biblical, Christian response to the violence of our society is to let the love of Jesus be the rule for the way that we treat others.
Schoolyard Violence (Opening the Circle)
Matthew 5: 21-26; 38-48
Sunday Morning, March 11, 2001
Introduction: The Bus Ride Home
The boy was already a little worried when he walked up the stairs to of the school bus. He was running late that afternoon, and the front seats, the ones near the driver had a tendency to fill up early. And sure enough, by the time he got on board, he was forced to sit in the third seat from the back, just two rows in front of the athletes and "cool" guys who always seemed to be hanging out in the last seat. He was definitely outside his comfort zone.
As he sat down, he unconsciously raised the hood of his parka, kind of like a wall between himself and the guys who were already snickering and making rude remarks literally behind his back. Then the bus pulled away from the curb and as the driver suddenly became occupied with watching out for traffic and for the turns along the route, he heard it.
He flinched visibly, as if reacting to a blow to the head when the spit thumped against the back of his hood. Then, he closed his eyes for a minute in what might have been a wordless prayer for deliverance. But nothing changed. The ride home only took 10 or 15 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity that day, and all he could hear was the sound of the spitting and the laughter; again, and again, and again, and again.
When the bus finally did pull to a stop at the corner near his house. It was kind of a mixed blessing, because he knew that even though the spitting would come to an end, he still had to walk up that aisle with the evidence of the other boys contempt and callousness literally dripping from the back of his coat. And you know how kind children can be. The laughter seemed to roll toward the front of the bus like a wave as he passed with only a handful of students turning their eyes away knowing that it might be their turn the next day. But he managed to keep his head up and to hang on to what little dignity he felt he had left all the way down that aisle and even up the street to the door of his house.
Of course there was no hiding it from his mom. The jacket needed to be washed, and in those days, teenage boys did not do laundry. But even after he swore that he would never ever return to that school, his mom felt compelled to call the principle and have a good long talk. And of course, he did go to school the very next day, and of course, the well-intentioned principal decided to call all the boys down to the office together so that they could each share their sides of the story.
And of course, the principal explained that they really weren’t bad boys. In fact they all came from pretty good homes and they were all fairly active in one aspect or another of the school’s sports program, and they really didn’t mean to hurt anyone and after all, no one really got hurt, did they?
But I can tell you it hurt, a lot. Because the boy I’m speaking of was me about 25 years ago. I was the one riding that school bus home from Capitol View Junior High in Roseville, Minnesota on a winter day in 1974. And to this day, I can’t really say I know why they did what they did. I’d like to tell you that it was because I was a Christian and because I had taken a really bold stand for the Lord. But that wasn’t it. That much I know. It was more because I wasn’t very coordinated and I really never enjoyed sports and I was always more comfortable with a good book than I was with a basketball and I just happened to be the nerd du jour. The freak. The outsider with the funny name and the out of style clothes.
But I CAN tell you it hurt. A lot. And maybe that’s why as the papers filled up with stories of the school shootings in Santee, California this past week, I read the articles with a little different eye than some might have had, and with more than a little apprehension because in some respects, I see myself reflected more in the perpetrator of that crime than I do in the victim.
This is what some of the papers had to say.
[Quote 3A} Freshman Charles Andrew Williams, who classmates said was the target of bullying, faces murder and other charges stemming from the shooting.