Watch Your Back, Christian Soldiers

June 15, 2011

I enjoy war movies.

Probably because I’ve never been in a war.  Now, I’m no fanatic.  But every once in a while, I can go for some Saving Private Ryan, or some Band of Brothers miniseries.

To me, these movies are more than the ‘splosions and guns.  What makes a great war movie is the camaraderie and loyalty forged between soldiers as they battle a common enemy.  That kind of friendship makes civilian friendships seem feeble and weak by comparison.

I used to think that kind of loyalty and brotherhood could be found in the church.  When I was eight years old, before I knew how politically incorrect it may have sounded, my favorite church song was Onward Christian Soldiers. Here I was, shoulder to shoulder with my brothers in Christ, decked out in our armor, weapons in hand, ready to charge the battlefield.  We had a visible enemy, Satan and all his minions.  I had the same gusto for taking down Satan as the soldiers of Inglorious Basterds had for killing Nazis.

It’s been a long time since I compared Christianity to a great army.  But it wasn’t until I saw a random tweet last week that made me realize the one thing that no military force in the world does except the Christian army…

Christian Soldiers Die from “Friendly Fire”

The term “friendly fire” is somewhat ironic, since it doesn’t much matter to the injured soldier who shot him.  American, Russian, German, Iraqi bullets all feel the same.

I’ve seen so many good Christian “soldiers” shot down by their own brothers and sisters, the ones who were supposed to have their back.  If the church really was an army, it would have the worst record of “friendly fire” of any military.  And our spiritual flak jackets seems to not protect us from all the flak we get from other Christians.

Seriously, how many Christian soldiers are injured by church?  Enough that a lot of people would rather defect than risk getting shot themselves.  People know they have less chance of injury by joining the enemy ranks.

Red Scare

Come to think of it, maybe the analogy of “friendly fire” doesn’t even hold up in the Christian army.  “Friendly fire” implies an accidental shooting.  Like Dick Cheney shooting his hunting buddy in the face.  That was “friendly,” of course.  But the Christian army seems to be so consumed with finding the spies and saboteurs in our midst, that we direct a lot more ammo at one another than at the enemy.

It’s like we’ve been infected with the “Red Scare” all over again.  Anyone could be one of Satan’s commie minions!  Your spouse, your parents, anyone could be one of them!

Drugstore Handicap

Maybe the church isn’t an “army” anymore.  Maybe that illustration is a little outdated and insensitive sounding.  Maybe it just invites controversy, not to mention the whole “friendly fire” thing.  What’s a more positive thing  we can compare the church to?

How about a horse race?

Sounds pretty good.  Even little girls like horses, which is more than can be said for war.  A church is a place where champions are bred, raised and groomed to “run the race” of faith.  So far, so good.  The better and faster we run, the more everyone cheers for us.  The fastest among us get the biggest venues to race.  And because everyone likes a “sure thing,” how about a drugstore handicap of Jesus-flavored positive thinking every week?

And then, during one of the races, one of us falls and gets horribly injured…

…So we shoot him.

Oh well.  I guess I’ll have to keep looking for a positive way to illustrate the church.

What do you think?  Does the church have a problem with hunting our own when we have bigger foes to face?  Or is the church really being brought down by saboteurs and enemies from within?  What is the biggest challenge or “enemy” the church faces?

40 responses to Watch Your Back, Christian Soldiers

  1. Matt, I agree with you. That’s not unusual or I wouldn’t be subscribed to your blog. The greatest enemy to the Church is in the Church itself. Sowing seeds of discord, gossip, finger pointing, exclusion of others, charges of doctrinal error, impurity . . . It is endless.
    Steve recently posted..Before Lauds News Post

    • Hmm. The greatest threat to The Church, meaning the one that Jesus is building, are the churches man is making and spreading around like some twisted STD that they stamp the name of Jesus upon.

  2. Interesting subject. All I can say is where’s the love? At least when it comes to those that fall, I get so mad I could shoot a few soldiers myself. Why are we so shocked that Christian sin? Even Paul sinned. My theories are that we don’t understand grace, or we don’t understand salvation or maybe both. We should be ministers of reconciliation regardless – right along with loving our enemies – errr I mean family.

    When it comes to disagreements on doctrine, I don’t really have a lot of time for people that that deny large chunks of the Bible, or base theology on a single verse. Sorry. I get tired of opinions, and statements that start with “I think,” or “the Bible says.” What I like are testimonies and the display of God’s power. IE: I had this heart attack thing 10 weeks ago. My pastor came and prayed for my healing the day after. No one but God knew how it would turn out – I was in ICU for a week for crying out loud! When he prayed God promised me 100% healing; so I told my pastor that. I just knew it in my spirit.

    The cardiologist was hopeful at first because my heart function rebounded from 20% to 35% in a day or 2, but then I plateaued for weeks hanging in the low 40%s.

    4 weeks into the ordeal I was visiting a little church (which I don’t attend). There, one of the elders had a word of knowledge for “someone with a weak heart.” I went up for prayer an the prophesied “complete healing” 4 weeks later I had an echo cardiogram and an ultrasound. As one of the techs was reading the results, she simply responded. “OH MY GOD, THAT’S AMAZING!” She turned to me as said, “your heart function is 100%!” The truth is the 66% of the folks that have my condition die or need heart transplants. That is amazing!

    I have been a believer in the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 13) for over 30 years. Not only have I seen God heal others, but he healed me. If I told you what my denomination was, or the “names” I go to conferences with, you’d find a lot of negative stuff on the internet about them. So freakin’ sad.

    Thanks for the topic, Matt. I am just glad that my theology, as fragile as it might be, ends with faith in Jesus to do the impossible.
    David recently posted..Shooting Our Wounded – Stupid Things Christians Do 1

    • I’m a great believer in the testimony of what God has done. Amen, and may you have many more years of praising God and telling others of His Greatness and Grace.

    • The most negative experiences that I’ve had in church growing up have been places where my fellow churchgoers were fond of shooting each other down.

      The church I attended in high school started out great, but there was an element of cliquishness going on there that would put the average junior high lunch room to shame.

      And it was always really stupid stuff that was dividing people–Harry Potter books, what schools the kids attended, who was in the choir and who wasn’t. There was one woman who went into some big snit (and, of course, tried to get a bunch of church ladies to go along with her) not because the pastor said he didn’t believe in evolution but because HE DIDN’T SAY SO FORCEFULLY ENOUGH.

      My parents (before they eventually gave up and left) even took flak because I didn’t live at home after graduation and go to college in town (the assertion was that they must’ve given me some reason to hate being at home!) On the contrary, I was pretty happy for THAT CHURCH to see the back of me–any wonder why?

      Unfortunately, because of all that when I start going to a new church, I’m a bit wary about becoming too deeply involved. I mean, I’ll go on Sunday and all that, but I don’t do much hanging around afterward and I kind of avoid getting to know anyone there on more than a superficial level. I’m trying to get over it, but it’s been difficult–being a naturally reserved person hasn’t helped, either.

      • No offense, but it sounds like that church was full of idiots.

        Churches get into cycles that are tough to break out of. Once a body of people forms a “culture” that includes gossiping and criticizing, it is extremely hard to break. That’s why we had to make a clean break with our church. A few people brought that culture in like a virus, and it couldn’t be stopped until the host died.

        • There were some really good folks there, too, but–like everything else in life–it’s the jerks that got the most attention.

    • Amen, David! I don’t understand it, but your testimonies amaze me.

      • That’s a great way to put it, Matt… I don’t understand it either. If I’m honest I would have to say some of it scares me a little bit, but how can I put God in a box and invalidate another brother’s experience with Him? I would love to hear more stories like David’s.
        Russ Ray recently posted..Spam- spam- spam- spam

  3. Oh, buddy. This is beyond true. The Church is notorious for eating up it’s own, chewing them up, and spitting them out without a second thought. I’ve watched my own church do this very thing to SO many people, and they don’t even bat an eye. They don’t care how they’ve affected these people or their families. All they care about is making sure their church “appears” to look good. It’s so frustrating…
    Adrian W. recently posted..My Quiet Place

  4. It saddens me when I see or hear of people falling and being ‘helped down’. I guess I do it also in my own little way (I know I do), but I also usually catch myself doing it, and either apologise when necessary, or change the subject or keep quiet and speak to people one on one.

    Unfortunately, we like to be right. And when we see someone else who has fallen in any way, we can justify our pride and rightness and feel better about ourselves, because we didn’t do that and our sins are little in comparison! Not really, all sin is equal (though sometimes I think pride and pharisaical thinking is greater).

    “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” So, does that mean we are not his disciples?

    I pray, and continue to pray that I show God’s grace and mercy and love (and justice where needed), as it isn’t my reputation at stake in this life, it’s His!

  5. I actually was conflicted for a while on the way sin in the church is dealt with. I mean, that’s why we’re called hypocrites, right? And it seems that most of the time there’s a trade-off: be accepting of everyone in the church no matter what they’re doing (as long as they’re straight) and reserve bile for the horrible world out there, or shoot your wounded. I know we need to focus on restoration all around, and Christ even used the illustration of healing the sick, so maybe language plays a part in it. I don’t think the metaphors we use are the problem,but they reflect our innate desire to shoot at someone.

  6. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

    The WAR between our nature of Children of Wrath, and The New Creation we are in Christ, is still raging on within us….and sometimes affects our niegbors…

    So we are the only ones to blame…but must realize this war within us to be able to solve the problem…

    Most people don’t realize this war within them…they deny it…and that is the root of the problem….They think they are doing God a servicing my punching others in the face. When in reality, the children of wrath part of them on the prowl…
    Arny recently posted..Top 5 Tuesday- What is YOUR Top 5 Favorite SONGS of all time

  7. My initial reaction to your question was “gossip & pride.” Pastors have their work cut out for them. I think we need to remember that even though a church may be filled with a bunch of grown-ups, those same people may also be spiritual babies. Grace is so important. I’m glad I’ve received grace when I didn’t deserve it.

    Spiritually mature leadership is also vital to a healthy church. I’ve been to a lot of churches where I’ve thought that everyone seemed churchy but when you can’t find one person whom you can trust to mentor you and help you get to a deeper place with God, that’s when you realize there’s a whole lot of bottle sucking going on! The bottom line is that we’re all sinners, we’ve all done things we shouldn’t have and we all need to keep the stones on the ground and start carefully sharpening each other like we should.

    Great post! I’ve missed reading them!

  8. So true, and so sad.
    bman (The Underfold) recently posted..They’re silent letters

  9. It’s weird thing how we validate ourselves…
    – we villonize those who leave our church to validate that we aren’t that bad
    – we shoot the wounded to validate that we are better then them
    – we form cliques to validate our self worth
    Maybe if we can cleanse the church of pride and competition we wouldn’t have to spend so much time shooting at each other.
    But…on the other hand…isn’t there a time when we have to take a shot? The Bible “corrects” and “rebukes” as part of the growing process?
    brian harrell recently posted..Ouch…He said What

    • Sure, the Bible corrects and rebukes. And Paul gives very good instructions on how to correct and rebuke in a way that’s healthy.

    • Most of the time I’ve seen people motivated to correct and rebuke it’s been directed toward a handful of sins. The ones that are safely seen as “theirs” and not “ours.”

      Gay folks in your church? The Bible is clear that they have to be rebuked. The young men in the church sleeping around? That’s meddling in personal issues, and after all boys will be boys.

      People using bad language, smoking or drinking? We will make sure you know what the Bible says and you will be squinted at until you stop. Gluttony making your congregation grow? We don’t want to hurt their feelings by bringing up weight issues.

      I have been increasingly convicted that the shocking fact that God loved me when I was unsaved and giving me eternal life is such an enormous thing, that in comparison someone who still has work to do that is between them and their Father is tiny in comparison. I am much more likely to pray for and express love to people I see who are fellow travelers than I am to rebuke at this point, unless specifically asked for my counsel.

  10. Matt, many of us have been wounded by friendly fire. I been wounded in and outside of the church. We must learn to walk in the love that Jesus commanded us to walk in. This will only come when we get His word in us. We are new creatures in Christ when we come to Him, but we have to do our part by renewing our minds. (Romans 12:2) We also have become passive in the church, becoming numb to sin and not offended by sin.
    Jon DeRidder recently posted..The Courage To Stand

    • Hey Jon. Maybe we’re not offended by sin, but we overcompensate by being offended by a whole lot of other things! :)

    • I agree that love has got to be the prevailing motive for anything I do. I actually don’t want to be offended by sin – I don’t see that in Jesus’s life either. I don’t think he could have sat down with and loved on sinners the way he did if he were offended at the number of things they were still doing wrong. I think he was offended by sin done by people who should know better, but particularly the stuff that kept people from God. And that’s what a lot of spritual sniping does, IMO.

  11. No offense to your writing topic, but I think that continuing to point out what’s wrong with the church keeps people thinking negative thoughts about the church. It’s shameful that so many people have experience with what your post is about. I am also in the midst of my own similar experience but I can’t focus there.

    I must, we must, focus on what God is doing. If the man at the pool at Bethesda was healed today (John 5), news reporters would not focus on the one man that was healed but the 99 that weren’t healed. We can always find reasons to take offense, and the enemy loves it.

    The unofficial motto of the church I go to is, ‘church for people who don’t like church’. I understand what they are trying to do but if you start with a negative you stay negative. Our church is full of people who don’t like church, just like the leadership wanted and then they wonder why so many people complain about the job that they leadership is doing.

    Nobody has ever felt better about themselves with introspection. Focus on God, lead by example and others will be attracted by your countenance.
    Andrea York recently posted..Is worship more than songs

    • Great point, Andrea. It’s true, too much negativity isn’t helpful. It’s not my aim to be negative, but to shine a light where there is darkness. Darkness prevails if we continue to ignore it.

      And you are right about the man at the pool. When he was healed, that fact was ignored. The only thing people saw was a man breaking the Sabbath.

      People may not feel better about themselves with introspection, but perhaps they at least know what needs fixing.

  12. Our “shooting ourselves” happens between the age groups of our church. I have tried to combine the adults with my youth for a special study in the past, and have had parents call and chew me out because they do not want anything to do with those immature brats (their kids!) We have essentially two church cultures between the under 30s and the over 40s. We are working to bridge that gap, and to treat one another with love instead of fear.

    It is a work in progress
    Matt S recently posted..The Dawn of Death

  13. This reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the weeds (Matt. 13:24-30 and 36-43. There are both wheat and weeds in God’s field, and it isn’t up to us to try and separate them… doing so can damage the wheat. Yet we try and sure enough–in trying to eradicate the weeds, we end up hurting other people in the church.

    In thinking about our church, I realize that we really don’t have “friendly fire.” As a congregation, we’re so focused on God and what He’s saying and doing in our midst, and on outreach, there isn’t time to attack one another. It’s a bit like teaching junior high–keep them busy enough and they won’t have time to act up!

  14. Great post, and great comments!

    I think that the church can be a real problem when it gets away from what Christ has done (is doing, and will yet do), and onto what WE MUST DO.

    Then you end up with prideful, finger pointing people…and despairing people who are ready to chuck it all overborad.

    That is why the EXTERNAL WORD is SO IMPORTANT. When we internalize the faith we get into these great religious and spiritual projects. Then the trouble starts.

    Steve Martin recently posted..The ‘HOLY SPIRIT’

  15. I just related a similar story in my class last week. It is too long to share in this comment. I was ashamed to be a Christian for a short time because of the back-stabbery I witnessed.

    I think Augustine had it right when he said the parable of the wheat and the tares or the weeds or whatever you want to call it (Matthew 13:24-30) is about the Church. The Church is going to be mixed with believers and frauds, saved and unsaved, Christians and Churchians. We may not be able to tell them apart at all, and it is not our job to get rid of them. That happens when our Lord returns. Therefore, we are to love each other and set the example for how to live.

    Too much of our history, as you pointed out today, has been focused on rooting out the weeds within the Church even though we have clearly (at least according to Augustine) been told not to worry about getting rid of them. As the Bible says, judgment belongs to the Lord. We need to stop trying to be God. Besides, if you attempt to weed out the unbelievers, you may be showing you are in fact one of the weeds (“If you love Me, you will obey what I command . . . . My command is this: love each other as I have loved you” (John 14:15; 15:12)).
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Man-led End Times

  16. In the 12 steps, we focus on step 10 for daily living. If we have attacked someone, hurt someone, etc, we are to make amends for that. All Christians should practice the 10th step. Then, when they kick a brother (sister) when he is down, he’ll have to apologize for it. Hard to call someone a hypocrite when they are saying sorry.

  17. This is related to something Jesus revealed to me this month: When I am so busy pointing out failures to other people (like my kids), I sometimes take over the job of the Holy Spirit, as if we don’t trust God to do the job properly. I think that is also exactly why Jesus tells people to first get the log out of their own eye before trying to remove the splinter from your neighbor’s eye. In other words, He is giving me yet another reason to keep my mouth shut. And I am happy to say that I am seeing the benefits in the relationship between me and my pre-teen daughter and my eight year old son.
    tandemingtroll recently posted..Happy Birthday- to my wonderful husband

  18. I think the most important aspect of christianity’s authority and power has been lost. The love, life changed people, prayer power and genuine healing (spiritual and physical) is MIA in the real world.

    Where does this leave us? Christians have no ground left to stand on.

  19. Sad. The biggest challenge and greatest enemy of course is satan. And the sneaky, conniving liar uses those of us in the ranks if we are not on the defensive, on our knees and in tune with the Commander.
    vanilla recently posted..Camping in June

  20. I love this post! It’s the perfect description of what’s happening in my church body, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod. There’s a big emphasis on being a so-called “confessional Lutheran”, and there are those who gladly “shoot in the back” who do not follow the church’s teachings lockstep.

    It makes me sad. Thankfully Christ is the Ruler of the Church, not these guys.

  21. When we internalize the faith we get into these great religious and spiritual projects. . . In thinking about our church, I realize that we really don’t have “friendly fire.” As a congregation, we’re so focused on God and what He’s saying and doing in our midst, and on outreach, there isn’t time to attack one another.

  22. Hi my name is dion Oleary and I would like to have permission to use this photo for a free mens camp here in New Zealand called mighty men’s conference.
    please let me know if this is ok? the photo is of three men walk of the battle field and the quote starts like this I enjoy war movies.

    Probably because I’ve never been in a war. Now, I’m no fanatic. But every once in a while, I can go for some Saving Private Ryan, or some Band of Brothers miniseries.

    Thank you greetings dion:O)

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