Cruising Route 66
Avoiding Friendly Fire
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2
There can be few situations in warfare that are as unpleasant and demoralizing as sustaining casualties as the result of your own friendly fire.
Dwight D Eisenhower
The term “friendly fire” means the firing upon one’s own forces or those of an ally causing the injury or death of one’s own personnel. Friendly fire is not limited to the battlefield. It is common in the workplace, among family and friends, in our schools, in clubs, and of course on social media. There are few organizations on this planet that receive more “friendly fire” than the church. Let me share with you some ways you can circumvent inflicting friendly fire and avoid being the victim of it.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8
The Book of Philippians was written by a man in prison, waiting to be executed, who looks through the bars of his captivity and watches the church he gave his life for come apart from within. Who would blame him if his words were heated and angry? His life’s work is dissolving right before his eyes, yet his words are not what you would expect.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, Philippians 1:3-5
We should do as the Apostle Paul and reflect on the good and give thanks. Do you remember your first church as a child? You may have received your first Bible there and learned to sit still longer than you wanted to. You probably sang your first hymns there, formed your first religious feelings, witnessed your first wedding, first funeral, first baptism, or sang your first solo.
It may have been in the church that you served others for the first time or joined a group of people who became a part of your life. You laughed with them, cried with them, celebrated with them, and grieved with them. Christmas took on a different meaning in the church. Easter, Thanksgiving, and even the New Year gained new meaning and purpose. Thank God for that church and the rich childhood memories.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:7-8
When you’re facing a hardship, the hospital staff are helpful and sympathetic, and your neighbors and co-workers send notes and condolences. However, who do you expect to enter into your crisis? Who will put their arms around you and just be there? It’s those folks at your church?
You won’t get what you need at the local bar, or in the lunchroom at work. Chances are good that somebody in your church said, “I have a scar just like that one. I’m here, and I’ll hurt with you.” When people hit bottom, they don’t need to be told how it should have been, or to be assured that it could have been worse. What they want is the gentle embrace of a friend who knows Someone bigger than their troubles.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, Philippians 1:9
“That your love may abound.” Where did you find your mate? Chances are, if you were attending church at the time, it was there. Where were you married? Most likely in the church, but if not, you probably wish you had been. When that spark of “abounding love” starts to dim, and things aren’t quite like you had expected them to be, where do you turn? Is it to a world that sees marriage as an institution established upon a contractual obligation? No, you turn to that place where marriage is still seen as vital, important, and holy. You go to church where your union was brought together by something far more than just emotion or attraction.
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. – Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. Philippians 1:12 & 14
When the church remains neutral on moral and ethical issues, the world around us finds fault and becomes cynical toward the church. Those outside the church are the first to cry foul and say that the church has let the community down. Why? It is because it has. They expect us to stand for something, and that “something” is righteousness! They want to see something different in those who call themselves Christians.
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, Philippians 1:15-18
The church remains vital for two reasons. First, the church of Jesus Christ has a singular message of hope, and second, because the church makes available a variety of ways in which that message can be heard. Churches approach the message from many different directions going from one extreme to the other. There are different styles of worship, emphasis, and methodology, and Paul says, even in their motive.
Paul shares something that might rattle some folks, “Whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice!” In other words, don’t participate in friendly fire! God may be using a style of ministry or unique approach you don’t like to reach out to someone you can’t. It is easy in our zeal to think that we have the only answer, the only right way, the only real church. As a Pastor, I am relieved and eternally grateful that I am not the only fish in the pond. What an awesome responsibility that would be. Only Christ is the true answer and builder of His church.
Until next time,