Monday, April 9, 2012

The Gospel for Mean Kids

While watching the Catholicism series (which is amazing!), I learned important contextual information about Jesus' admonition, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also" (Matthew 5:39). Fr. Baron explained that Jews of that time would not use their left hand to strike a person. So to strike your right cheek, the aggressor would use a backhanded slap, as one does to a slave or other inferior. By turning the left cheek, the recipient of violence refuses to be treated as an inferior. The aggressor may choose more violence, but will be forced to treat the other as an equal, striking with an open hand.

The message, then, is not to cower before violence, but to make the aggressor aware of his action and maintain one's human dignity. We are to engage in nonviolent protest.

Local 12103 on strike

What are we to do, though, when violence is between children? Whether physical or verbal, bullying can happen even in youth group. Our parish recently made the difficult decision that a child could not return to youth group unless accompanied by a parent. This happened after repeated incidents of physical aggression.

I saw the boy on Easter, called him by name, and said hello. He looked ashamed, waved briefly, and disappeared into the crowd. My heart went out to him. This is the child who needs to be at youth group. He needs to know that he is valuable and loved. He needs to know the Gospel, the Good News, of freedom from fear.

And we sent him away.

I don't know if we had another good option. I am grateful not to be the one who had to make the final decision. Could we have addressed the issue as a large group (60+ middle school kids)? Would it have mattered if we talked about what it really means to turn the other cheek? Or would his aggression have continued unchecked, possibly driving away other kids who need the Gospel?

How do we share the Gospel with those who most need it?

Divine Mercy


  1. My little guy experienced a similar situation. I felt rejected at first, but the leaders gratefully allow me to accompany my son. I'm praying he soon learn self control, and I remain thankful for God's moment by moment grace for everyone.

    1. It's so hard all around. So far, his parents haven't brought him back, but I hope they do. Thank you for the reminder that God's grace covers us all.

  2. Good post.

    That child may well grow up to resent authority and those who excluded him. I pray this is not so.

    God bless.

    1. I join you in that prayer. I wish there was an easy solution in this type of situation.