Jesus’ Strategy for Church Bullies

Cartoon by David Hayward

Mark 1:21-28

On they went to Capernaum where, on the holy day, they went to church. And he started teaching. People were captivated with what he had to say because he had real conviction about it, rather than just droning on like the clergy. Right away, though, a person with an evil spirit started yelling: “You’ve got nothing to do with us, Jesus of Nowheresville. You’ve come here to wreck our church, haven’t you, you holier-than-thou-think-you’re-a-big-shot!”

But Jesus said, “Shut up and get out of here!” And the evil one left, shaking his fists and screaming obscenities all the way out the door.

Everyone was unsettled, whispering among themselves, saying, “How’d he do that? That took cojones! He even tells the s-o-bs where to get off – and they do!” And so he began to be famous around the region.

There’s one in every crowd. Every pastor arriving at a new congregation has to face the church bully. But you can find them in classrooms and offices, on the work-floor, at the PTA, and at the family reunion.

And as long as they get to be in charge things can simmer along in quiet unpleasantness. The clergy, the bosses, the teachers are free to drone on and on. Nothing exceptional happens. No mission happens. But try to start something exceptional, something remarkable, something worthwhile and all hell breaks loose. They’ll call you all kinds of names. They’ll make it personal.

Jesus has none of it. “Shut up and get out,” is the only appropriate response to a bully. They don’t go quietly. And, as Mark’s gospel continues we’ll see that they don’t stop making a commotion even after they’ve left. But the only way to make remarkable things happen is to keep them on the outside and shut them down.

And, yes, it takes real cojones to do it.