I asked a pastor friend for this story. He was unable to tell me his source. I don’t think that means he made it up; only that he clipped it out of something without noting where he got it.
Two hundred years or more ago, the British Navy arrived in the Canadian waters near what is now Quebec. They were instructed to wait for reinforcements before attacking the city, then held by the French.
When the commanding officer saw his men growing bored with the waiting, he decided it would be worthwhile for them to get in a little target practice. In the distance, he could see numerous statues of saints atop the cathedral. “Let’s see you hit those,” he ordered.
By the time reinforcements arrived, the British had used up most of their ammunition, and they were found to have insufficient military resources to defeat the French.
Two hundred years later, Quebec is still a French city, because the British decided to fire on the saints instead of the enemy.
In military parlance, “friendly fire” is when soldiers fire on their own buddies by mistake.
It happens in churches far too often.
After a grueling business session during which a church ended up dismissing their pastor, a layman was heard to remark, “I’ve been in the business world for a half century. And I’ve seen far more turmoil in my church than I ever did in the secular world.”
In every city of any size there are former members of churches who no longer attend any place of worship. Someone in the congregation brutalized them verbally or spiritually and they finally stood it all they could and walked away. if you asked, they would say they still believe in the Lord Jesus, but not in His people.
There are church-dropouts who were beat up by preachers. And ex-pastors who were beat up by church members.
Not far from here are several churches that are trying to die as fast as they can. They repeatedly fire their preachers and bid good-bye to members who want to change the suicidal culture of their leadership.
One wonders if they know what they are doing.
Writing about the contradictory nature of a hypocritical tongue, James, the half-brother of our Lord, said, “My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (Jas. 3:10).
The Lord intended that His people would be known for their love–love for God and love for one another. Yes, love for all mankind, too, but pre-eminently love for the Lord and love for members of His body, the church.
When that love dwindles, it’s as though a protective armor has disappeared and the enemy is able to come and go as he pleases among the flock, ravaging and savaging without fear.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love…. (Col. 2:1-2).
When we are knit together in love, there is a unity, a spiritual oneness. When the love is gone, disunity follows. And with disunity comes division and eventually warfare. The enemy has a field day.
When God’s people are at war among themselves, a number of bad things occur: God is displeased, Christ is dishonored, the devil throws a party to celebrate, God’s people are victimized and abandoned and hurt, the outside world is disgusted, and sinners who were close to trusting Christ as Savior are discouraged and leave with no plans to return.
We sometimes speak of churches that shoot their wounded. As awful as that is, there is another tragedy as bad or worse: We sometimes shoot the innocent, those whose only crime is that they happened to have joined our church.
Here’s how that happens….
–A young family gets saved and is baptized. The first church business meeting they attend becomes their last. They see a church fight take place before their eyes. These mature leaders–deacons and teachers and ministers–argue and bicker and call names. The young family watches this behavior and decides it is worse than anything they saw in their pre-Christian life, and want no more of it.
–A church member of influence slanders a Sunday School teacher. She is forced to resign her class, and she and her family leave the church. The young people who adored that teacher are hurt. No one ever makes an attempt to explain things to them. Most drop out of the church.
–The youth minister is forced out. See previous paragraph.
Our Lord must have had something like this in mind when He said:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
God’s people need reminding constantly that Jesus did not say people would know we are His disciples by our doctrinal uniformity, by our theological orthodoxy, by our ministries or pronouncements or good deeds or great rhetoric. They will know we are Christians by our love.
You’ve heard the expressions “I’ve got your back” and “I would take a bullet for you.”
That’s the remedy for friendly fire.
Someone has to step up and speak up to defend the innocent one who has been caught in the cross-hairs of a misguided team member’s weapon. You might even have to take the bullet and let it hit you in order to put a stop to it.
Our Lord Jesus took the bullet for us when He went to Calvary in our place.
You know how John 3:16 reads.
But do you know I John 3:16?
By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
No one does this better than another layperson.
The temptation is, when we see a church member brutalizing another member, to urge the pastor to take action. But he is not the one who can handle the terrorist in the congregation best. The SWAT team best equipped for dealing with trouble-makers within the church membership is the godliest and sweetest members of the church.
Let them speak up and call down the divisive one. Let them do so in love and confidence and courage. Let them remind the congregation that this is about honoring the Lord Jesus and protecting the little ones who believe in Him.
The reason church terrorists do their destructive work unabated is because the church members allow it. And the reason the members allow it is that the godliest and sweetest members turn a blind eye to it. As a result, the church is destroyed, God in Heaven is blasphemed, Christ is dishonored, Satan is gleeful, and sinners who could have been reached for Christ are abandoned.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)
Someone do the trouble-maker a favor and stop him before he kills again.