Sadly, wars have a long history of friendly fire incidents. Meaning that a soldier’s own countrymen, allies, or innocent civilians are unintentionally killed or maimed in the course of a battle or training exercise. You have only to google the topic and you will find a long list of such tragic events dating back before any of us were living, all the way up through the war in Afghanistan.
In one such event, in January 1944, over 400 American and British POW’s were being transported to prison camps in Germany in unmarked cattle cars when their train was strafed by the advancement of a group of American B-26 bombers.
In another instance, on 15 January 2007, a British marine died after receiving a gunshot wound in Afghanistan, which was later found to be due to friendly fire. The final inquest ruled he died from NATO rounds from a fellow Royal Marine’s machine gun. The report added there was no negligence by the other Marine, who had made a “momentary error of judgment.”
A “momentary error of judgment” indeed. One that rendered irrevocable consequences.
Lately, the not so friendly fire between Christians over Covid-19, racial unrest and now the presidential election has been unprecedented, leaving the wounded open and bleeding all over map and throughout the church. And by extension, non-believers are casualties. Rather than see a church that forms a united front against outside opposition and persecution, they see one drawing up battle lines inside their own sanctuaries.
In the 21st century, the persecution aimed at Christians is at an all-time high in America.
And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
What should we be doing?
We should be taking up positions along the wall to fend off the relentless incoming barrage. Just as the Israelites did in Nehemiah 4, we do this-in order that we can carry on with the work which God has commanded us to do. In the timeless words of Nehemiah:
“Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’ When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work…… Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, the work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”Nehemiah 4 (NIV)
Can we even hear the sound of the trumpet call?
It’s likely impossible. It would seem we are too busy shooting each other down.
Persecution of Christians from outside the church family has been happening for centuries: Remember the New Testament Church? Or the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 AD? The rise of Islam from 500 AD- Medieval Age which brought on the crushing invasion of the Ottoman and Assassins armies ? The Viking Warlords in the North? Wars that raged throughout Europe, devastating Christian families across European landscapes, leaving them homeless, dead or dying, all throughout the 16th and 17th centuries?
In a telling article about the history of the persecution of Christians, Dr. George Grant stated:
“Throughout church history, believers have suffered persecution and obscurity. They have been beaten, ridiculed, defrocked, and defamed. They have suffered poverty, isolation, betrayal, and disgrace. They have been hounded, harassed, and murdered. The heroes of the faith have always been those who sacrificed their lives, fortunes, and reputations for the sake of the gospel. Indeed, persecution and martyrdom have been among the church’s highest callings and greatest honors.Dr. George Grant, August 1, 2015, Tabletalk Magazine
So, this begs the question.
When did it become acceptable for Christians to start throwing down the gauntlet for other Christians?
I’m not talking about holding each other accountable, confronting sin, admonishing one another in love, or having different opinions. We know that there was disagreement in the early church. For instance, in Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas, close friends and missionary partners, had a “sharp disagreement,” (ESV) because Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along with them from Antioch, but Paul did not. Paul took issue with what he perceived to be a poor work ethic in John Mark. Barnabas, ever the encourager (and I’m pretty sure a 9 on the enneagram), invited John Mark to come with him. And just like that, Barnabas and Paul went different directions.
Geographically speaking, they went different directions.
There will be disagreements among believers. At least I hope so. That’s a critical element of diversity, creativity and growth. (Romans 14:13-21) But persecution is another matter altogether. Generalizations and broad-based assumptions made about another Jesus follower or any people group for that matter-this is persecution.
Recently, On November 3, my 24 year old sent out a text on the family thread that lovingly said,
“Praying for you all today. No one get too worked up. No matter what happens Jesus is the only thing that actually matters.”
I was proud of her for centering her family on Jesus. For reminding us that ultimately, he is the only One who can give any of us the peace and hope we long for. It was truly a sweet note of encouragement.
It pointed us to Jesus.
Which in turn, means we can be better focused on the needs of others.
But according to the author of a public post that I happened upon a couple of days later, my daughter’s text message seemed to hit every benchmark for “Jesus Juking.” In other words, she ignored the needs of others, by proclaiming the sovereignty of Jesus no matter what took place. (paraphrased).
Subjective and judgmental = Firing indiscriminately without knowing who’s the real enemy.
I don’t care how big and vast your social platform is. We are all accountable for our words, oral, written or typed.
I have seen hundreds of posts from influential evangelical leaders and Jesus followers who have spent virtually thousands of combined hours exposing the perceived weaknesses and the political frailties of their fellow believers. And to that I say,
I am not your enemy.
Redirect your cannon muzzle away from me and my children.
Realign your gun sights on the real enemy.
I am one of the ones on the wall, and I am holding the line.
Persecution has been with us for thousands of years, and if the Lord tarries will be so for thousands of years to come. But we are not supposed to be fighting off attacks on two frontal positions, outside and inside the church.
Our time is better spent individually and as a body of believers, on our knees in prayer, encouraging someone with a handwritten note, giving of our time and money, having coffee with a hurting friend, or buying groceries for a neighbor, than it is lampooning another believer just because he or she doesn’t sport the same political agenda or social narrative as you.
Let it not be said of our generation and the ones to come, that friendly fire razed the church to the ground.