When I was little I went to church, but it depended on who I was staying with for what church I’d attend. With my dad and my Nana (mom’s mom), I went to 7th Day Adventist churches in the D.C. area. With my Grandma (dad’s mom) I went to a small Baptist church back here in WV. Both denominations were equally reserved and quiet, the only difference I could tell at that age was that the 7th Day church had rules for living, and the Baptist didn’t, I remember being able to take my coloring book and crayons when I went with my dad (the church being so much bigger with so many more people I wasn’t keen on attending Sunday school), and with Grandma – she was the Sunday school teacher to only a couple of us kids and there was Play Doh!! I would stay with my dad during the summer, and I absolutely loved it when he would put me in vacation bible school. I’d put on my little sun dress and matching pony tail bobbles, bubbling over with excitement for the stories, the stickers, and the crafts! I have to say it’s still a favorite memory!
My first time attending a church as an adult I wasn’t thinking I was just excited in the Lord. It didn’t take long for someone to invite me to the ladies small group. She was so nice and even though I was nervous I jumped into that as well. Well, the questions about my life didn’t take long either, and I decided that if I was going to join this church and small group I’d be honest. ***This is the point of the story where people tell me I should have used discernment to know who to be honest with – I’m not sure I agree***
The result was that I was shunned, yes literally shunned by the nice lady (the Pastor’s wife), backs turned in full-out rejection as I walked into the church.
Several years ago I was at Women of Valor conference and the speaker was talking about people in the church who were quietly wounded – carried secret pain that they didn’t feel they could share with anyone in their church. The speaker called for those who felt that way to come forward for prayer. I shut my eyes so tight and fearfully went forward, convinced that I’d be the only one standing out there. As I was praying, God told me to open my eyes and see… I opened my eyes to see a sea of women on the floor. I’m not sure I’ve seen that many women on the floor at the conference since that time. Later God spoke to me about how significant it was that there were so many women (people) like me, women and maybe men who don’t feel they can speak openly and honestly with anyone in the church. The frustration of not being able to ask for prayer because then we may get gossiped about, ridiculed, or rejected. We are alone, and unable to connect to the Body even though that is really what we want and need. Jesus spoke a word to me about that place, the outer fringe – that just as the fringe on His Tallit is the “healing in His Wings” – the fringe is where His Healing is. As Jesus walked and met with people, He met with people on the fringe, the outsiders, the sinners. These are the people He comes for, and they are the ones we need to be embracing with open arms. That’s when He started speaking to me about “Friendly Fire”.
I’d like to share a small bit of what God gave me:
Military definition: “Friendly Fire is an expression meaning fire from one’s own side or allied forces, as opposed to fire coming from enemy forces. Friendly Fire occurs when there was intent to do harm to the enemy which causes injury to one’s own side.”
There is something called “Friendly Fire” going on amongst some believers. They fight more with each other than they do with the enemy, or for God!! They are well versed at “discerning” the wrongs in each other, but can’t discern the enemy, and don’t know God’s heart or the Truth of His Truth. Our churches are supposed to be spiritual hospitals and schools, but they won’t function as such until there is growth beyond infancy.
Warning Against Falling Away
11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Friendly Fire is marked by a good intention, but results in injury or death. Injuries can be serious: damaged relationships and feelings, death to a God-given dream or assignment, unopened spiritual gifts, and for people to make a complete break from the church – finding more understanding and freedom in the world than with fellow believers. Another result that is just as damaging is the loss of unity in the Body of Christ. The injured are so wounded that they cannot properly connect to other believers. Fear rules rather than openness, skepticism rather than acceptance, and suddenly distance is normal within the church.
Causes of Friendly Fire: Still flowing with the Military terminology and definitions there are a couple of key points that we should look at to get a better understanding.
Primarily Friendly Fire is caused by something called “Fog of War”, which has two classes:
• Error of Position (Close Proximity)
• Error of Identification (Inaccurate Targeting)
Close Proximity is defined exactly as it sounds. The various U.S. military units and enemy units are all packed into a relatively small amount of land space firing at each other.
Inside a church we are all packed in together, possibly learning warfare or just enough about the bible to think we’ve got an “enemy” in target range, maybe learning to use the new gifts we’ve been given, and possibly we are “cutting our teeth” on each other. It could also be that we are too clustered together! Huddled up inside the church with no outward focus or action is a problem, because the world is the place to use the “schooling” we’ve gained inside the church.
Inaccurate Targeting is due to poor visibility, unfamiliar ground, disoriented, combat stress, fire discipline.
Inaccurate Targeting is a foregone conclusion if our only line of sight is the people inside the church, and a vital lack of knowledge of God’s Word that disciplines us, removes the blinders, and makes things clear. We learn just enough to aim incorrectly, to shoot prematurely, and pick wrong targets. It’s a lack of knowledge, and wisdom. When we operate through our flesh we have no spiritual wisdom. We make hasty decisions. We aim to kill “the enemy” we think we see in others believers, not realizing what we are doing.
(When “Targeting” inside the church, visibility (Spiritual Sight/Understanding) and fire discipline (understanding of Spiritual warfare and your authorities) are vital if you want to actually hit the enemy and not sister Sally over in row 3. Maturity is a must!) Friendly firing is common with lack of knowledge.
The warfare we are called to practice on all people is LOVE. The people around us, saved and unsaved, are not the enemy, no matter what we see inside of them or their life. People are not the enemy!!
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We are not called to change people – that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Sin is not where we draw the line on love! Gal. 6 makes it clear that when a brother stumbles we are to gently restore him. I don’t see gently meaning that we forsake them, do you? (I am not saying sin is to be allowed to remain un-dealt with. We can deal with sin with love and faithfulness.)
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
What have we gained when we forsake people? What have we gained when we tell them their God-given dream is not of God? What have we gained when we hurt people with our rejection, negativity and criticism? We all have gifts, talents, callings, plans, and missions from God. And what He does in your life is going to look different from what He does in my life. We can’t make a target out of something just because it looks different.
What good are we doing the Kingdom of God by debilitating the life in God in those around us? If we are spending our energy trying to get healed and forgive others, how can we be about Father’s business? We are to be united, with Christ leading us, using the Truth of His Word as our family Code of Conduct! We must embrace unity, we must gain a new focus on the over-all mission of Christ, and we must embrace the freedom and power of God’s Grace for our life and for the lives of others. We must stop fighting with each other and start fighting FOR each other!! We can do it by the Grace of God!
By the Grace of God, our unified mission is love! We are to love as Jesus does!! We are to cloth ourselves in Christ – does He wear: rejection, condemnation, ridicule, and judgment? NO!! We are to be dressed in the Clothes of Christ not just for people who don’t know Him, but for each other as well. We are to lavish love on ALL people, outside and INSIDE the church!! Christ-like love is selfless, limitless, accepting to all, and His heart is willing and able to welcome anyone and everyone into Himself, no matter their past sins and failures. Praise to God, Jesus doesn’t have restrictions on loving.
God created people, God loves people, and God wants all people to be with Him. Rise to every occasion to live out Christ in you! They will remember the love!! Their hearts will lean toward that love like a plant leans toward the sunlight. It desires the warmth and nourishment it receives just as people do. People crave nourishing words from others! They respond in amazing ways to love! Live out his love and that will radically touch people. Live out His forgiveness by shaking off offenses, we are all growing in our love walk and need tolerance of each other for when we mess it up.
What are our words saying to others, especially the most important people in our life? Are we building them up? Are we applauding the best in them or are we announcing their flaws and failures via loud speakers, or through whispers behind their backs???
God has big plans for each of us and it’s time we start building each other up to do big things!! Things that are outside the norm, outside our churches, outside our comfort zones, and outside the box (we think) we put God in. God’s Power cannot be contained in a box. He has limitless Creativity, and is full of Awesome Surprises.
Prayerfully consider these scriptures – these are only a few, there are many many more on love and unity!
• 1 Cor. 3
• Gal.3:26-29 – We are all sons of God, one in Christ
• Gal. 5: 6b – “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”
• Gal. 6 – Life by the Spirit
• Eph. 2, 4, 5:1-21 – Unity in the Body of Christ
• Col. 3 – Rules for Holy Living
• Galatians 5:16-26