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Bullying Lessons

Bullying Lessons

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Christopher Glenn Reed was an average college student in Georgia. But earlier this year, the 21-year-old U.S. Missions Chi Alpha student campus ministry leader felt impressed to go deeper in his faith and outreach. So he rode around Columbus State University campus and prayed that God would make his faith more known to his fellow students, so more people would come to Chi Alpha and know Christ as Savior.

Four months later, God answered his prayer. But in a bigger and most unusual way.

In July, Reed and his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years, Ashley Stevens, 21, attended a family member's wedding. The highlight for Reed and Stevens, also a Chi Alpha leader, was when Stevens caught the bouquet.

"It was just funny because I've never caught the bouquet before and my dad started giving Christopher the 'look,'" Stevens says.

To commemorate the moment, Stevens and Reed did what they loved to do: snap a comical photo and post it online. Within 24 hours, the photo had gone viral. Friends and family commented about the great photo. But soon they began to text Stevens and Reed with other news: don't read the comments, they're harsh. What began as a fun, spontaneous moment for the couple who attend Evangel Temple in Columbus ended with fat-shaming commenters bullying the couple about Reed's size as well as his mental capacity.

"The comments were awful," Stevens says. "I couldn't believe people would be so cruel -- and they don't even know us."

Stevens wasn't with Reed when she first saw the comments and worried that Reed would be understandably hurt. When she saw him that day at lunch, however, she was overwhelmed by his response.

"He was so cool about it," Stevens says. "He just shrugged it off and made a few jokes, but it didn't bother him because he's confident in who he is."

That confidence, Reed admits, comes from his knowledge of who he is in Christ.

"I've always been a big guy, but I understand that I was made for a purpose and I'm a bigger guy for a reason," Reed says. "God made me beautifully and wonderfully, so I choose to focus on what God thinks of me, not what others think."

That's one of the reasons Stevens was drawn to Reed in the first place -- his love of God and his embrace of who God made him to be. So instead of lashing back at the online haters, Stevens responded back in the way she felt would most honor her relationship with Reed, writing that she "won the jackpot with Christopher" and admired his strong faith.

But the incident didn't stop there. Her response gained the attention of national media outlets, which provided Reed and Stevens with opportunities -- from the Today show to The Huffington Post -- to talk openly and freely about their faith, forgiveness, and God's love. They were so inundated with the thousands of responses from people who connected with their story that they started a Facebook fan page to reach out to others who may suffer from bullying or who need to hear about God's love. The page has reached almost 3,000 "likes."

Although time consuming, they respond to and pray for each person who contacts them. They also pray for the nasty commenters. Reed, who feels that God has given the couple this platform, explains that Christians should try to understand what other people are going through. Usually there is an underlying issue.

"When someone calls you out and says something mean about you, it's not that they do it for fun," Reed says. "We can't just automatically say, 'Hey, you're just a jerk.'" Both Reed and Stevens believe God has told them to offer forgiveness to the haters.

For now, the couple -- who plan on continuing their work with Chi Alpha -- after they graduate, have found a mutual ministry that goes well beyond their local campus. The couple have discovered that God answers prayers in unexpected ways.

"It's so cool that God answered Christopher's prayer through a funny picture," Stevens says. "We're going to go back to school and a lot of people have seen the story. He can use anybody and everybody."

 

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