Daily Devotional

'Friendly Fire' in the Church

by Simon Whitton

21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.

Matthew 5:21-25 (NIV)

During times of war, so called 'friendly fire' is a major concern for every army. In the first Gulf war 50% of British and 25% of US deaths were a result of 'friendly fire', some claim higher. Many of these incidents were one allied nation firing upon another allied nation with whom they were less familiar.

The Church is also an army, embroiled in a very real battle. Whether it's various denominations taking shots at one another, or a more close and personal 'in church' engagement, we must make efforts to reduce 'friendly fire' casualties, which cause such senseless grief and pain.

You can imagine what a huge impact this has on an army, both in human loss and on morale. An inordinate amount of time and energy is spent avoiding or resolving this sort of tragedy. 'Friendly fire' can be sorted into two general types: accidental and deliberate.

Accidental 'friendly fire' is a result of the 'fog of war'. Warfare is always a confusing chaotic affair, with much movement, concealing terrain, and poor visibility; so friendly forces are often misidentified as enemy, especially when you are fearful for your own safety.

There's little difference in the church. Appearances often deceive, a target may appear to occupy a hostile position, may act and even look like the enemy, but later, perhaps much later, when the fog that shrouds this life clears, you may be surprised to learn you were shooting at friendly forces.

Interestingly, 'friendly fire' is often referred to as 'fratricide' which comes from the Latin 'frater' meaning 'brother', and 'cide' meaning 'to kill', or to kill your brother!

To avoid casualties in the church, we not only have to make our allegiance and position clear, but must carefully identify who we are taking aim at before we open fire. If we do this, any incidents that do occur can be considered largely accidental.

Deliberate 'friendly fire' was called 'fragging' in the Vietnam war. One estimate is that as many as 25% of officer deaths in Vietnam were a result of fragging. Most of those incidents were because their subordinates saw them as incompetent. Deliberate 'friendly fire' should be taken very seriously, it is actually murder. Fortunately, for the church, forgiveness for this crime is readily available; there's an advocate who will stand as the accused in the court martial intended for a brother.

One way or another, 'friendly fire' incidents are inevitable during the stress and confusion of war. Even well-meaning, well-trained soldiers sometimes shoot at and wound or kill men on their own side. This doesn't make them the enemy, though Satan would prefer we felt that way. We need to look beyond the small firefight we're involved in, and see the big picture, see it from a general's perspective.

If you've been involved in or have witnessed a 'friendly fire' incident, you're probably aware of the lack of trust, the deep suspicions, the healing that needs to take place. No healing can take place unless there's forgiveness. Perhaps you have to receive it, or maybe extend it, but in this war there is probably no weapon more powerful than forgiveness.

Spend some time praying. Pray for those in the church who have been involved in a 'friendly fire' incident, regardless of blame or fault. Pray specifically for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

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