Friendly Fire in the Family of God – How to Go Forward When You Are Hit by Surprise

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We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or view us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.

It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.

We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers or true believers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again?  Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and hurt deeply.

This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.

How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.

Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.

Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).

Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).

Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.

Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, “God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?” (Milton)

Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’ There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’

God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”

I pray for us all who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment, to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us.

Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You by Michael Milton

Christian Friendly Fire: With “Friendly-Enemies” Like These Who Needs Christianity? by Kevin Benton

8 Responses to Friendly Fire by Jim Stitzinger

My Story by Jenny – Surviving Friendly Fire by Ronald Dunn

Surviving Friendly Fire – How to Respond When You’re Hurt by Someone You Trust by Ronald Dunn

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2 thoughts on “Friendly Fire in the Family of God – How to Go Forward When You Are Hit by Surprise”

  1. enjoyed reading this and know that its something we all go through or have even done to others, thank GOD that he lets us pick up our cross every day and forgives us as we forgive others.

    Thank you for Sharing

    1. Thanks, Barbara. It’s so true that we handle friendly fire so much better when we remember we have done it ourselves. We all need forgiveness and God’s grace to forgive. Thanks for commenting.

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