What does the Bible teach us about bullying?

September 26, 2018

For many students, bullying is an everyday issue that they have to deal with at school. Up until the past few decades, bullying was overlooked by most people, being viewed as “kids just being kids” or “a normal part of growing up.” But incidents such as school shootings or the recent Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” have made bullying and harassment a more regularly discussed topic.

Bullying happens more frequently than you might think. According to the American Medical Association, by the time students finish school, nearly half of students have been bullied at one point or another.[1] It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

What is bullying?

People usually know what bullying is when they see it, but it’s sometimes hard to put it into words. Researchers who study bullying cite three common characteristics of what makes an act bullying:

There are three types of bullying that occur:

  1. Physical: Hitting, kicking, spitting, tripping, pushing, breaking someone’s things, rude gestures
  2. Verbal: Teasing, name-calling, threats, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting
  3. Social: Leaving someone out of a group on purpose, telling others not to be friends with them, publicly embarrassing them, spreading gossip or rumors about someone, etc.[3]

With the increased use of computers and cell phones, especially among teens, there is also a special type of bullying called cyberbullying, in which the harassment is done with electronic means like texting, email, social media, etc.

What does the Bible say about bullying?

The Bible doesn’t talk directly about bullying, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t use biblical principles to address the issue. The Bible commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Luke 6:31). There is no room in the Christian faith for belittling or abusing someone. Every person, regardless of what he or she looks or acts like, is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; James 3:9-10) and is worthy of the dignity that God gives to every person.

Bullying, therefore, is never okay. Thirty percent of students admit to bullying other students.[4] We should make sure we aren’t counted among them (1 John 4:20). As Christians, we are called to honor God with our words (Eph. 4:29) and our actions (James 1:22). We should constantly examine our actions and motives to make sure they line up with these standards, asking God whether there is anything unpleasing to him (Psa. 139:23-24).

How should Christians respond to bullying?

How does God call us to respond if we are being bullied or we see someone else being bullied?

1. If you see something, say something.

Reporting bullying to the proper authorities is one of the most important strategies we can use to prevent further bullying. Twenty-eight percent of students grades 6-12 say that have been bullied at school. Yet only 20-30 percent of those who are bullied actually report when they are bullied.[5] As Christians, we are called to seek justice and defend the oppressed (Psa. 82:3-4, Isa. 1:17). God, in his infinite wisdom, has established human authorities like the government (Rom. 13:1-4)—or, maybe in your case, the police, school administration, or parents—to help make the situation right. You aren’t alone. Don’t be afraid to tell others what’s going on, whether you are the one being bullied or are merely the observer.

Something extremely important to remember is that it isn’t tattling to report bullying. Tattletales only tell on someone when they want to get them in trouble. Reporting bullying is motivated by the desire to protect people. Reporting bullying protects you, the person being bullied, and everyone else around you. Doing nothing helps bullies because it allows them to continue bullying without consequences. We need to have courage and stand up for those who can’t or won’t defend themselves. Of course, use wisdom in all situations. If there’s a situation that looks dangerous, get an adult to help or call the police.

2. Understand who you are in Christ.

Meditate on passages like Psalm 139:13-18, which tells us that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that God’s thoughts toward you are too numerous to count. You need to know that you are special to God and created in his image with immeasurable worth and value. Do not let the lies that bullies tell you influence what you think about yourself, because what God says about you is the truth. He loves you and cherishes you because you are made in his image.

3. Even if you are wronged, respond in a Christ-like manner.

When we are in the midst of a painful situation, it can be very easy to forget who we are in Christ and how he has called us to act. Thus, if you ever find yourself being bullied, there are a couple of principles that you need to keep in mind.

First, we should never try and get back at a bully or seek revenge (Rom. 12:17). As Christians, we know that this world is not perfect, but we are not the judge of the earth. God is the one who can judge the world in righteousness and repay everyone for the evil that they’ve done (Rom. 12:19). Instead, respond to your bully with kindness and love. I know this is easier said than done. It’s easy to feel angry, upset, or defeated about your situation, bringing with those feelings a temptation to want to get back at them. But what Scripture calls us to do is to love our enemies and pray for them (Matt. 5:44). Do not try and overcome the evil being done to you by doing evil in return. Rather, overwhelm your opponents with the goodness and love of God (Rom. 12:21). You never know how your kindness may change their heart.

Second, it’s okay to stick up for yourself if you are bullied. Christians can often be confused by passages such as Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29 which tell us to “turn the other cheek.” Most commentators agree that these passages are probably not referring to severe physical or emotional abuse, but rather a slap that is meant as an insult. When we look at the context, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the suffering they are going to endure for being a Christian (Luke 6:22). His primary concern is speaking against the “eye for an eye” mentality of revenge (Matt. 5:38) that was prevalent in the culture. He is not speaking against all forms of self defense. Jesus himself, when he was slapped unjustly, did not turn the other cheek but questioned his accusers (John 18:22-23). From other passages of Scripture (Ex. 22:2-3; Neh. 4:16-18), we can see that even using physical force to defend yourself is permissible in some circumstances. However, do this only in situations where you are being physically assaulted and have no other choice. Use the amount of force necessary to escape, never to take revenge.

Sticking up for yourself may be difficult to do, but if you are able to stay calm and respond in a loving manner, then you have every right as an image-bearer of God to defend yourself and speak the truth. You are worth being defended.

4. Reach out to those being bullied

Lastly, we need to reach out to those being bullied. One of the best ways we can do this is to befriend them and invite them to hang out with us. Not only will this make them feel loved, accepted, and less alone, it also acts as a deterrent to bullying. Bullies are much less likely to pick on someone if they are in a group of friends than if they are alone. Another helpful thing we can do is comfort and encourage them. Remind them of their intrinsic worth and value, combatting the lies that bullies speak. Even little things like spending time with them or giving them a hug make a bigger difference than we realize.

Bullying is wrong, period. As Christians, we are called to act in love and kindness toward everyone, including those who wrong us. And we are called to stand up for the vulnerable and weak. We should do good in the face of being mistreated, and when we see others being mistreated. Above all, we shouldn’t try to handle these situations alone. Authorities should be involved when needed. And our family, friends, and church love and care about us and are there to support us.


  1. ^ Richard T. Scarpaci, “Bullying,” Kappa Delta Pi Record 42, no. 4 (Summer 2006): 170-174. Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed June 10, 2017).
  2. ^ Ashley L. Cohen, “Bullying,” Research Starters: Education (January 2017): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed June 10, 2017).
  3. ^ “Bullying Definition.” StopBullying.gov. Accessed June 10, 2017. https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html.
  4. ^ “Facts About Bullying,” StopBullying.gov. Accessed June 11, 2017. https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html.
  5. ^ Ibid.

Neal Hardin

Neal Hardin grew up in Murrieta, CA before getting his BS in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Utah in 2012. Following that, he worked as an engineer for 4 years at a steel mill before the Lord called him to pursue a seminary education in 2016. Neal is currently a … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24