(February 27, 1991)
TWO U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED BY FRIENDLY FIRE!
Pentagon and media alike may not realize it, but this outrageous terminology suggests allied bullets are “nicer” than those dispensed by the other side. What difference does it make to the two soldiers if the bullets were “friendly” or not so friendly? Either way, they are not coming home. A bullet is a bullet.
Even so, that headline saddens us in a different way than those announcing casualties from enemy fire. We may never know if such deaths could have been avoided with some precautions but it seems even more senseless to die at the hands of someone who didn’t mean to shoot you, than dying at the hands of someone who deliberately and wilfully takes aim and fires.
This incident is related to something that happens in the church among those who are genuine Christians, brothers and sisters in the army of God. Yes, we are soldiers, called to fight against wickedness and the forces of evil. Our weapons are prayer and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Our defense is the armor of God. This army does not seem powerful, but with God on our side, we have the superiority. We know Jesus eventually wins.
But what is wrong with us right now? Why has the army of God not conquered the evils in this world and overturned the power of the enemy? Why do we have wars if Jesus came to bring peace? One suggestion comes from the above headline: we go down under “friendly fire.”
Galatians 5:13 says: “Brothers, you have been called into liberty; only do not use liberty for opportunities to serve your old nature, but by love serve one another.”
By the very fact that God had to give this command, we know “friendly fire” is a likelihood. If there was no potential for us to “bite and devour one another” as verse 15 says, God would not have put so many reminders in Scripture about loving and serving each other. In fact, most Christians, if asked and if honest, would say that some of their deepest hurts have come from unthinking words or deeds committed against them by another Christian. I know that mine have.
Someone once said that Christians are the only army that shoots its own wounded, yet it is not always the wounded that receive the fire, it might be the leaders (as in “roast pastor for Sunday dinner”) or the behind-the-scenes servers who don’t publicly blab about what they are doing — so someone complains that they are not doing anything.
Perhaps we hurt each other because we have unrealistic expectations from those who claim to know Christ and give no allowance for failures. Perhaps we take one another for granted and think we will always be “family” we can say and do whatever we like and the relationship will not be destroyed.
Whatever the reasons, Scripture gives examples. Paul wrote a rebuke to the Corinthians because they were taking one another to court. He told them it was better to be wronged than to act so shamefully before a watching world (1 Corinthians 6). He also told them he heard about their “debates, envying, wrath, strife, backbiting, whispering, boastings, turmoil... uncleanness, fornication and lustful behavior” (2 Corinthians 12:20-21). Not a nice list.
Paul also told the Galatians not to desire vain glory, nor provoke or envy one another, while James warned about “bitter envying and strife” because “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” He warned them that all the “wars and fighting” among them came from inner evil desires that had taken control of their lives.
Obviously, Christians are not immune to deadly fire from one another. Sadly, the difference between that and the “friendly fire” downing serviceman in the Middle East is that our fire is not initially aimed at the enemy... it is actually even targeted toward fellow soldiers. (When we do fight evil the enemy, we cannot use weapons like envy, strife, selfish ambition and backbiting.)
Never forget, our survival depends on following our Commander’s orders. Once we start shooting each other with criticism or take up arms to defend our own cause and opinions rather than the gospel, the battle is immediately lost.