#WalkUpNotOut Is Not Victim-Blaming or Mere Niceness. It’s the Gospel.

darkhandHaving spent five years teaching in the public school system, I have many thoughts on bullying.

I’ve learned that what I consider a light tease towards a person I don’t know too well, but actually kinda like, may instead be salt in an unseen wound.

I’ve learned that what some call bullying may be only a blink-of-an-eye pattern that happens twice and strains the classic definitions, but should be resoundingly educated against regardless of what label it falls under.

I’ve learned that despite those definitions, some bullying does have the stronger individual on the receiving end. Nobody is impregnable.

I’ve learned that bullying doesn’t just come from one-parent kids on the wrong side of the tracks, but from children of popular and powerful families as well.

But most of all, I’ve learned that kindness is not just niceness. In this world where we get ten negative comments to every positive one, a kind word is water in the desert. Some people out there would give their next meal for one.

So when Rachel Held Evans last week took aim at the viral anti-bullying campaign #WalkUpNotOut, intended to replace school walkouts with acts of kindness towards unknown peers, you can imagine I rolled my eyes.

rachel

This tweet misses the point in so many ways that it could be a kicker for the Seahawks.

Evans’ voice is joined by the usual left-wing cacophony about how treating people well won’t end school shootings. That’s a classic example of a “straw man” – an argument nobody was making, erected in the hasty fear that it might crowd out their preferred solutions. It also forgets that plenty of people blame the shooter for his actions, not the victims. Now Rachel has this tweet out there, copied by itself into meme form, without the benefit of her later clarifications, looking like she dismisses outreach as “being nicer”. I doubt she actually does, but…hard lesson of social media there, Mrs. Evans.

I do agree that violence will never completely cease this side of the mirror dimly. We fight it, we pray against it, we make laws against it (and argue which ones to pass), we avoid it ourselves, and that’s all proper and urgent. Yet only heaven will bring order and peace.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing whatever is within our reach. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have as many hoses on this fire as possible. #WalkUpNotOut has the nice distinction of being something we can control, right here, right now.

Most of all, however, we should walk up to people because…it’s the Gospel.

 

It’s ironic, really – Evans is exactly the sort of Christian figure for whom “love on people because Jesus” is right in her wheelhouse. She of all people should know that the Gospel was the story of Jesus walking up to us, in so many different ways.

Jesus walked up to uneducated fisherman and gave them a stunning role in his story.

He walked up to hated tax collectors (Matthew and Zaccheus) and welcomed them into his circle.

He walked up to blind men crying out in the street and granted their request for new sight.

He walked up to an adulteress, lying in the street, abandoned by her accusers, and offered forgiveness.

He walked up to sinners kicked out of the synagogue and ate with them.

He walked up to the woman at the well and offered to replace her counterfeits with true water.

He walks up to us, not because we’re potential school shooters, but out of love.

And God took the initiative, loving us first, and gave us this Jesus to save us from our sin. The Gospel is not about how we could walk up to God, but how God walked up to us and refuses to walk out on us.

(That’s not a renunciation of school walkouts. That would be straining the metaphor. I’m not here to comment on that.)

I just hate to see #WalkUp trivialized. Personal relationships are the very conduit of the Gospel, the arteries through which God chooses to circulate it. “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Practically every popular Gospel presentation strategy in the modern church relies on personal relationships. My pastor includes some form of “go talk to that person” in practically every sermon. Can we, I dunno, try not diminishing to even the slightest degree the importance of loving on others?

Mental health is a monolithic challenge for our generation. To be sure, it is on the increase, and it is not easily delineated or overcome. But the point is to double down on as many solutions as possible, and we should not overestimate the impact of reaching out to the marginalized. Jesus didn’t envision a kingdom without it. He didn’t enable a Gospel without it. And he didn’t exemplify a life without it.

 

I’m glad you’ve tuned in today. If you found this post of value, please feel free to share it on social media.

20 thoughts on “#WalkUpNotOut Is Not Victim-Blaming or Mere Niceness. It’s the Gospel.

  1. Well-said, Brandon. We cannot trivialize the power of kindness. I appreciate your example with Jesus in mind. He is the epitome of the power of selfless love. The millennial & xennial generations have been lauded for recognizing the value of community and family, but without Jesus and the gospel it will wither beneath the weight of majority voices. Only Jesus shows us the kind of love that overcomes it’s enemies.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Xennials are the micro-generation between gen-x and the millennials born between 1978 and 1982. I am one such person. We grew up using analog technology and grew with the digital technology. We went through high school and college without social media. We are kind of a mix of things I guess. All through college I was identified as a gen-xer and then they put the millennial distinction out there and it must have thrown people into tizzy because apparently they came up with this microgeneration designation. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Courage. Walking up to someone and being kind entails being courageous enough to become involved in the mess of their life, even if only as a witness. I’m rarely that courageous. But in the times I have been, my Master has always blessed, in some way. It wasn’t always a happy ending, but it never failed to increase my joy and peace. Some won’t receive such blessings, refusing out of fear and distrust. Some will, though. The success and failure isn’t our responsibility, but our availability to our Master is. Good word. Thank you for posting!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I’m not gutsy with people, either. But I sense that he wants me to be. I get opportunities in coffeeshops and sometimes on the street, and I want to be more intentional about taking them.

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  3. Thanks for the food for thought here. I agree that “walk up” is at the heart of spreading the Gospel and God’s love. Not sure that the “not out” part of the campaign was necessary; it puts them in opposition when they are not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great Post Brandon! I see this kind of behaviors as early as elementary school age. And what I can say is that “it starts in the home.” If we model, model, model kindness, our children will see it as the “norm” in their own relationships with others.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely agree. The moment news broke of the shooting in FL a student said, “Yeah, we all knew it’d be him to shoot up the school” (paraphrasing here) I was so disheartened for my generation. This boy was stuck in a mental hole he couldn’t climb out of and he was ridiculed. They did create that monster. Some say it was in him long before highschool but lets be honest, they fed it that monster by not feeding him. What kindness was shown to him? None. Social outcasts are feared because they aren’t understood and they are hurt for the same reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

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