When encountering bullies who make it their aim to hurt, humiliate and humble us, the concept becomes a painful, personal reality. (Dreamstime/TNS)

I remember the day I stopped running.

I was 7 years old, and the family next door had a pack of boys. To me, they were something like terrorists.

One of the brothers in particular, Danny, made it his daily mission to torment me. I remember vividly the day he was chasing me with a handful of sandburs he intended to throw on my exposed back.

I ran like crazy, of course. Just like always. Until I stopped.

In that moment something clicked inside my soul. I remember thinking, “That’s enough. I’m not running one more step from this bully.”

Sliding to a stop in my dusty Converse high-tops, I turned to face my adversary. Come what may.

Sometimes we allow bullies into our thoughts and imaginations. We assume we are being disrespected or “pushed around” when we are just being overly sensitive.

But there are real bullies, like Danny. Bullies with skin on who make it their aim to hurt, humiliate and humble us. In those moments, the concept of bullies becomes a painful, personal reality.

At this moment, I am very concerned with the increase of intimidation tactics, oppressive policies and outright dangerous harm of Christian believers around the world — sometimes resulting in prison or death.

For them, persecution is no vague or elusive concept. These are real people serving Jesus and his mission in places like Cuba, Egypt, India, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and Pakistan.

There is a common reason heavy-handed forms of government have a problem with Christ followers, regardless of their geographical location. It boils down to the confession of our faith:

Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.

When the state assumes a throne, like a god — then the state becomes the highest authority in the lives of those governed. And it demands an unhealthy compliance, and submission.

The aggression usually starts when totalitarian governments begin disinformation campaigns, filled with rumor, innuendo and implied fault against a particular group in the society. As the disinformation trickles down to the local level, it takes on a life of its own and picks up momentum through people who are naturally given to heavy-handed and mean-spirited tactics toward others.

Persecution is not the sole experience of Christians, but certainly, Christians have endured persecution since the days of Nero. Christ followers stand out as light and salt in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

If Christians would just “fall in line” with the patterns and principles of non-Christians, there would be no problem. But there comes a point when we just can’t do that. And this clash of values is not going away until Jesus returns for his Church.

How are we to respond?

In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus told us we are blessed and should rejoice and be glad when persecuted for righteousness. The Greek word for “rejoice” contains the idea “to be well and thrive,” and the Greek word for “glad” means to “jump for joy.”

But there also comes a time when we must draw a line.

Daniel was commanded to “stop praying” or he would be served to lions. He never ceased praying. The Apostles were strongly ordered to not preach about Jesus and his good news. That didn’t work either. They turned the world upside down.

If honoring Caesar and ruling authorities means violating our conscience and disobeying God, then Christ followers must stand firm and resist. Come what may. We must follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When I turned and faced my childhood antagonist that day and told him I was no longer going to run or be his victim, he backed up.

The bullying didn’t completely stop, but the running did.

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