Bullies are gunning for the righteous and innocent. Consider that they went after Jesus despite his miracles right before their eyes.
Our faith teaches us not to fear and to pray for our persecutors. Yet, self defense is consistent with our faith.
Nellie Edwards told a story as part of the Amazing Grace series of how her oldest son, John Paul once was called upon to defend his younger siblings against a couple of daunting bullies. He is now the homeschooling father of nine children striving to instill in them, the courage to defend both their faith and others. He shares his own insights at the end of the story’s telling.
Raising a family in a town rife with gang crime was a constant concern for Nellie and her husband. In 1994, their town in central Washington state made national news for having more violent crime per capita than New York City. In 1996, seeking a safer place to raise their eight children, they moved to a small town in North Dakota across from the city park. On their first Fourth of July holiday there, many out-of-town visitors had arrived, among them some rowdy boys recklessly driving through town, raising dust and alarm.
With his younger brothers and a few friends, John Paul had started a game of basketball while waiting for dusk for the family fireworks.
Suddenly, something whizzed by John Paul’s ear, and he turned around to see that a couple of out-of-town boys (about eleven and thirteen years old) were lighting bottle rockets in the center of the park with no concern that someone might be injured.
As we had taught him, John Paul looked out for the younger children, so he approached the boys. He politely asked, “Would you please light your rockets over at the abandoned school grounds?” The boy with the lighter looked at him with a grin and lit the next one, dropping it as before so JP (as we sometimes call him) took him by the shoulders and said, ‘I’m not asking anymore. Move on’” Perhaps since sixteen-year-old John Paul was a head above both boys, they did as they were told, but not without yelling expletives as they ran away.
They called out, “We’re going to get our big brother, and he’s going to kill you!” In less than five minutes, the same van that had been menacing the town all morning pulled up to the edge of the park. Out climbed three boys, whom our son judged to be between eighteen and twenty years old. The largest strode quickly toward John Paul with fists clenched. He cursed at him for, as he put it, “telling my brother what to do” and slugged John Paul in the face.
Just as the other two began to close in on John Paul, he remembered that he knew how to defend himself. Though it had been nearly two years since he had learned Taekwondo, he blocked the next punch and delivered a blow to his aggressor’s mouth. Down went the bully, minus a front tooth!
He got back up and made for his van, saying, “I’m going to get my dad!” In just a few minutes, sure enough, came the bully’s father. He showed up and demanded that John Paul pay for his son’s tooth. The boy’s father refused to listen and kept yelling at him to pay up!
We called the sheriff and explained what had transpired. The deputy came and interviewed John Paul. He had already discovered the identity of the others and told us that we should be proud of our son—that he had done well to protect the younger children. The deputy commended him for his heroism.
While we encourage our children to follow the Gospel’s admonition to “turn the other cheek,” the Church does teach that since our bodies are sacred, they are deserving of being defended from aggression.
There will always be bullies; but in this case, the bullies we sought to escape in Washington had prepared John Paul [ by having him learn self-defense] for the bullies in our new home, thus proving Romans 8:28: “In everything God works for good with those who love him.”
I contacted the now grown and married John Paul before publishing this story. He added this additional information. “After several minutes of me being berated by the father of the bully, I simply asked him, ‘How old is your son?’ He replied, ‘Eighteen, why?’ I explained that his son had just assaulted a minor. At that point, the Dad walked away, and we went back to playing basketball until the deputy sheriff arrived."
Other books include: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and the best-selling Amazing Grace Series.
To receive articles in your inbox, enter your email in "Feedburner" in right column. God bless you!