When I was a little boy, it was my custom to walk around the neighborhood on Saturday mornings gathering my friends to play. We generally went to a vacant lot where we imagined all kinds of adventures. There was a friend of mine who had become something of a bully.

When I was a little boy, it was my custom to walk around the neighborhood on Saturday mornings gathering my friends to play. We generally went to a vacant lot where we imagined all kinds of adventures. There was a friend of mine who had become something of a bully.

He was taller than the rest of us, and very muscular, already a great athlete — by our standards. He had beaten up some boys and was threatening to do worse to me the next time I came by his house.

Not wanting to push my luck, I avoided walking on the street where his house was, and ducking out of sight every time I was anywhere near him out — even at church.

One Saturday morning I had a change in my routine. Little Debbie happened to be up and around early and came by to get me to come out to play. We went walking around the neighborhood, and before I knew it, we were in front of the bully’s house. I felt a shove and found myself face down in the dirt.

The bully had come up behind me and pushed me down. He was standing over me, telling me to stand up and fight. As I was dusting myself off, and standing back up, Little Debbie said something to the effect of, “You ain’t nothin’ but a punk!”

Faster than I could register, she had sent her fist into the bully’s face, knocked him down, bloodied his nose, and told him, “If you get up, I’ll hit you harder.” With that she told him, “You apologize to Van, tell him you are sorry on your own, or I’ll make you do it!” He apologized to me, and then the “not so frightening bully” got up and went crying to his mom that his nose was bleeding. I wasn’t really pleased with either of them, thinking they both acted badly.

A few days later I asked him, “Why did you get to be so mean, and why did you want to beat me up?” He answered, “Because, I wanted to show I was as good as anyone…” I answered, “But we were friends!” Ashamed, he said, “Well, I figured if I beat you up in front of someone, then everyone would know about it, and they’d be scared of me…” I just looked at him, and finally after a few seconds I said, “You know, friends don’t have to prove anything to anyone, not even each other…”

As Christians we are called to share the love of God with all the world, to let people know that God welcomes them into relationship with Himself.

We are called to be expressions of that love, by offering ourselves as friends to all we encounter — for His name’s sake.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”

Yet, sadly, many of us are too busy trying to bully people into a relationship with God by scaring them. By pointing out to them that their lives are not the “good” lives they should be living, and that they are not, and cannot be, as good as we are — or those who think and act as we do — until they allow God into their lives. In other words, God can’t be at work in them, and won’t really love them, until we say it is alright. Until then, they are a little “less,” or “not worthy.”

Such are nothing more than religious bigots, and hatemongers, common variety bullies…

God loves us as we are, where we are, and we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. God invites us into friendship with Him. God is already our friend, and was our friend before we were born, and before the world began.

He longs for us to share the Love He offers the world, rather than for us to raise up roadblocks…God calls us to be instruments of His love — to be friends for Christ’s sake.

• • •

The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.

• • •

Editor’s note: Pastors or associate pastors interested in writing for this section may submit articles to pbcnews@pbcommercial.com. Please include your phone number and the name and location of your church or ministry.