Friendly Fire

When The Church Wounds

Friendly fire.

Just the term gives me a little shudder. Everyone knows that the most painful wounds come from those who are closest to us. 

The Bible warns us to be ready for persecution. We are told that since the world hated Jesus, we will also be hated. The world will treat us the way it treated Him, and his treatment was far from humane. 

When the world shoots arrows at me, I’m not surprised. 

But what about when those arrows come from a brother or sister? Over and over again I see the persecution of Western Christians coming from within the church. Where we should be each other’s biggest cheerleaders, we can be found fighting, belittling, and assassinating character left and right. 

Over and over again I see the persecution of Western Christians coming from within the church. Where we should be each other’s biggest cheerleaders, we can be found fighting, belittling, and assasinating character left and right. Click To Tweet

I’ve seen this in friend’s lives, who were formerly in ministry and not only left ministry, but left the church altogether. I’ve heard horror stories of how people were treated when they had given their lives to ministering to a certain church or people group. 

I’ve seen it in my own ministry family’s life.

In his book “The Wounded Minister”, Guy Greenfield says “Abuse of pastors by congregations and the breakdown of pastors due to inadequate support are now tragic realities. This worst-case scenario for the church, one that is increasing in epidemic proportions, is not a misinterpretation by a few discontented clergy. Rather, it is a phenomenon that is verified by both research and experience.”

Such a sad statement to make. 

We’re all susceptible to it; whether it’s being mistreated, or mistreating those under our care. Whether we are the ministers in the church, or the saints in the pews working hard to serve the Lord, it’s so easy to forget how we are to treat each other when our churches are functioning like an organization rather than a family unit. 

What is happening in these situations? How has the church gone from being “the light of the world” or “a city on a hill”, to a group of people who are almost indistinguishable from the business down the street other than the language we use and a few weird “rituals”? 

I see several factors in the friendly fire going on in our churches today:

  1. Unregenerate “Christians” - The North American Mission Board is quoted as saying that possibly up to 50% of church attenders aren’t born-again. If half of our members aren’t even Christ-followers, then we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t act like it. 
  2. Undiscipled Christians - A person who has never studied the Bible for himself will not be able to distinguish when they are being led in a way that is contrary to Christianity. Power hungry people in our churches can easily sway undiscipled Christians just by making things sound “biblical” or reasonable, falling back on common sense instead of the Holy Spirit?
  3. Business Model-led Churches - when we allow our churches to turn into businesses that are being run by boards and bylaws we open our ministers up to being governed by people who have business in mind, rather than the kingdom.
  4. Apathy - When there is a problem in our midst and we ignore it, or let “time heal all wounds”, we are actually being apathetic to the deeper issues in our midst. Apathy perpetuates the problem and allows more people to be wounded.
  5. Selfishness - Sometimes we just don’t care enough because our lives are too busy and many things are just more important than the day to day details of our church. As long as the church is meeting my needs, then I don’t have to dig any further. There are so many problems with this description that I don’t even know where to start...
  6. Spiritual Warfare - We forget that we have an enemy. One commentator explains that this is how spiritual warfare works - “Often when we think of spiritual warfare, we imagine Satan attacking us in a full-blown frontal attack, complete with CGI effects, blood, and gore. This isn’t how an underpowered insurgent enemy operates. Instead, insurgents spread half-truths, gossip, and misinformation to spark infighting among its foes. And that’s what Satan does to the church of Jesus Christ. He spreads rumors, feeds our fears, breaks down trust—enough so that we turn on each other and implode from within.”

All of these can lead to ministers being sidelined, Christ-followers being hurt deeply, and sometimes a painful exodus from the very places that should be where we seek our healing. 

Does the word of God tell us how we are to treat one another? Let’s open it up and see.

There are a lot of verses coming, don’t skip! There is a point to the abundance of verses….

Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Ephesians 4:29-32 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Matthew 7:12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Proverbs 24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,

1 Peter 3:8-12 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Philippians 2:2-4  Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

1 Peter 2:17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 4:20 if anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (Already used this one above)

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Ephesians 4:2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

1 Corinthians 16:14  Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Luke 17:3-4 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Luke 6:27 But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

Hebrews 12:14-15 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Proverbs 17:9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Galatians 5:14-15 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Titus 2:7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

I’d say that God has given us some pretty clear instructions of how we are to treat each other. We genuinely have no excuse. If we truly lived by these verses then the outside world would ABSOLUTELY know us by our love for each other. 

None of this is possible without the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we aren’t treating each other in the way these verses instruct, then it’s time to check ourselves. 

I have seen the church embody these verses so beautifully in my family’s life. I have never seen people “be the church” more than in the times we’ve been devastated by friendly fire.

When we go through our darkest times, the real church shows up and shows out. 

When we go through our darkest times, the real church shows up and shows out. Click To Tweet

Let’s be biblical. Let’s treat each other the way these verses so clearly instruct us to. Bear with those who are broken and bruised. Apathy and selfishness cannot be a part of your walk with Christ. Recognize the work of the enemy in your midst! Pray for discernment.

This quote from the book “Reimagining Church” says it perfectly - 

“I have a dream that countless churches will be transformed from high powered business organizations into spiritual families - authentic Christ centered communities - where the members know one another intimately, love one another unconditionally, bleed for one another deeply, and rejoice with one another unfailingly.”

Be the true church to each other. 

 

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