Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Christian friendly fire

In most wars, a good percentage of the casualties comes from "friendly fire," or ammunition that hits the wrong target due mostly to inadequate communication and misunderstandings about the orders given. I was surprised at the start of the current Iraq war that the number of casualties from these kinds of accidents, including overturned trucks and crashed helicopters, seemed to outnumber battlefield casualties from enemy fire.

I suspect that the same is true in our spiritual warfare. How many casualties in the cause of Christ have been sustained by misdirected fire from other believers due to misunderstandings about the orders given from Cammander to soldier? How many people have been turned off to the very simple message of Christ by Christians warring amongst themselves? Too many to count, no doubt.

One of the worst stains on those of us who call ourselves Christians is that much harm and division has been caused in the name of Christ, not by the Commander's orders , but by human misunderstandings of them. Unfortunately, confusion on the battlefield is the mark of humanity. That doesn't negate the positive impact of Christianity on the world, of course. Without the moral and evangelistic nature of Christianity, the world would be in much worse shape. Most charitable work in the world is done in the name of Christ, and when a cup of cold water has been offered in His name, it is as if it has been done to Christ himself.

But when the tank treads hit the sand, I have too often mistakenly turned the turret on my brother rather than combating the true enemy--my own personal weaknesses and failings. That's where the real warfare is to be waged, not against a fellow soldier who is as human I am:

    Romans 14:4 - Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

Will it be necessary for a brother to converse with another brother that may need correction? Of course. All conversations between brothers are useful if the attitudes going into them are right. Such conversations may even be crucial at times, particularly when a brother is engaging in friendly fire. But unless their wrongs rise to such divisive or immoral levels, or unless they have denied Christ, we would be well advised to keep our turret aimed squarely at the real Enemy while we discuss things out with our brother. Maybe by lending him a hand and being patient with his misunderstandings, rather than firing a shot across the bow, we'll be more productive in helping him on his way.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, or against our brothers and sisters in Christ, but against our own temptations, our own character flaws. That is my battle, and if you are a believer, it is yours. Our true battle is against our bitterness, anger, malice, resentment, and our own desires that go contrary to the law of love that we are under. That's the battlefield we ought to be most engaged upon. The words of a song come to mind:

    as another sun sets on your anger
    the darkness laughs, as the wound destroys
    and it turns your prayers to noise
How true it is that when our own attitudes are not forgiving and Christlike, our prayers are turned to noise. The song goes on:
    this bitterness you hide
    it seeps into your soul
    and it steals your joy
    'til it's all you know
    let it go

    will you forgive?
    will you forget?
    will you live what you know?
    He left his rights
    will you leave yours?
    you won't understand it
    let it go

If our eyes are on Christ and on our own character, that helps us keep our eyes off of our brother's faults in a healthy way. His faults that seemed so obvious before will suddenly become less noticeable as they fade into the background of our own. That's not to say that iron shouldn't sharpen iron, as the proverb goes. But I would say that as we sharpen our swords for battle, let's just remember who we're battling and who we're supposed to be helping so that our prayers don't just become noise.

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