Collateral Damage

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. 

The phrase ‘collateral damage’ has been on my mind lately as I see so much division between people in the church. Not just because of political differences either. Much division happens from gossip and slander. Yet others are bickering, biting and devouring within the body of Christ. Certain brethren easily take offense, don’t think before they speak, and go after another in anger. Then there are those who won’t just eat their bread in quietness, but tend to stir up strife and sow discord instead. And in the process others in the body are hurt. Some withdraw altogether, weary from the struggle, or others can get snared by the morsels of gossip. Outsiders misjudge the situation with a lack of knowledge as to what has even transpired. They may have good motives and end up giving you advice on what it is you should do or shouldn’t have done. This doesn’t necessarily make it Biblical counsel, so we need to take it to the Lord in prayer.

What is Collateral Damage in the church?

Collateral damage in the normative sense is an injury inflicted on an innocent bystander. They weren’t necessarily the intended ‘target’ but are hurt anyways. In military operations it is the civilians (or structures) who are caught in the crossfire. Or it can even be friendly fire from your own side. And whether there was even an intended or unintended target may not be the issue — it’s whether damage has been done.

I thought on this phrase over and over, as I watched some (in several recent events) come out to chastise others with no real knowledge of what happened. Having seen the big picture, I was disappointed at the quick and unrighteous judgments by several (which were according to the appearance – John 7:24). They had no idea of the other side of what had happened, Proverbs 18:13 speaks to them. Some just plainly made some unkind or uncalled for remarks that shouldn’t be so (Prov 31:26; Prov 10:31-32; Eph 4:32).  

Edifying the body of Christ

Sometimes as believers we see a pattern with people that isn’t edifying to the body, in fact it can be harmful to all concerned.  Some teach daily on their page or in groups, yet they don’t like being questioned about something they have declared to be Biblical. If anyone should ask them a question, they take it as an offense, and may go on the offense themselves. We just can’t do that, we have to willing to be questioned. I have news for those who are offended by other’s questions to consider. It is a noble thing for one to question any of us if we say something is in God’s Word (or Biblical). A good teacher should be apt to teach, and willing to do it in meekness and patience. 

False or misleading accusations

I have watched some FB brethren accuse others of things that are instantly believed by their listeners.  Kind of hard to take those things back later. This is so wrong, it ought not be so. This is not the way we solve problems in the church, but it sure is a way to cause them. 

Some are the first to air differences, or become louder or more public than another, (or worse), claiming certain wrongs that have never transpired. This is just shameful. Name calling is the same. It is a sin against Him. We have Biblical resolution, and we have fleshly resolution.  Which way are we attempting? 

Showing Preference to others

The book of James is one that is clear, we are not to show preference to one another for any reason. Often we may do it because of our feelings for another, but we should not make a judgment without having the right answer from the Lord. I marvel at those who will do it again and again. We have a precedent set for Biblical witness, and oftentimes I see people just simply don’t follow that guidelines in His Word. In the process, it is the body of Christ that is harmed, along with non-believers that may be watching. The most tragic, is the name of Christ is maligned and the gospel is too. Have we been a part of that?

The Little Foxes that spoil the vine

There is a more subtle collateral damage occurring within the body besides outright gossip. Stop those little foxes before they eat some of the tender grapes (Song of Solomon 2). Guard your fruit and the harvest as a whole. Some of the collateral damage comes in the form of prayer requests. Some may be asking for prayer for themselves or sometimes on the behalf of another but include information that ought not be shared whether true or false.  Involved in that prayer request may be a complaint of what someone is doing to them, or an innuendo of some wrong doing by another.  In turn that ‘prayer request’ causes all sorts of vain imaginations. Out of it comes just plain gossip and/or slander. Are we praying in God’s will, or our own? Who is being hurt with this type of ‘prayer request’? This passage below is spoken to BELIEVERS. Ponder that for a moment.

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?   You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  James 4:1-3

Choose those who you fellowship with wisely. 

Also, be careful who you share your faults with when you ask for prayer (James 5:16).

Diotrophes in the church

Over the years on Facebook I have seen some who are downright malicious. The Bible talks about these types.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.  Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

Unrighteous responses

There are several different types of unrighteous rebukes from people. Some just due to misunderstanding, possibly desiring for others to just get along. We have peace keeping and peace making. Let’s do it Biblically and peaceably as much as is within our power. I’d suggest you pray first and don’t get involved if you have no knowledge of what has transpired. Others come from a place of malicious slander such as Diotrephes. Scathing words or false accusations can happen from non-believers, but unfortunately we sometimes see it (or worse) from believers. 

Some people automatically assume what a person has said is true or at least must have some partial truth, so sides are taken.  Others are empathetic to the person or their situation so they tend to excuse them sinning against others. It’s a hard place to be in, but we need to strive to do it His way at all costs.   

Judging within the church

We are to judge within the church, but it seems most don’t know what that looks like. Tread lightly, check yourself for a beam in your own eye before you attempt to remove their splinter. You can try to reach the person personally but they may stubbornly resist any efforts for the right kind of peace with others. Worse they may misrepresent others or just say things that simply aren’t truth. In a recent skirmish, one refused to read personal messages, while publicly (and falsely stating) reconciliation had been made privately. No attempts had even been made, so this was no misunderstanding. At some point you have to withdraw from those who continue to walk disorderly, but if they have confessed what they’ve done and asked for forgiveness, be willing and ready to forgive.

Reconciliation in the church

True reconciliation springs out of keeping short accounts with others and judging with a righteous judgment and not according to the appearance. We do need to confess our part in a matter, and a good start happens by being humbled to God and submitted to our brothers and sisters (1 Peter 5). Being quick to admit wrong directly to the people we’ve wronged. Not by public statements or multiple private conversations (and those misleading prayer requests). Not by stirring up un-involved parties, but by going directly to the individuals. Be willing to accept your responsibility in what has transpired with the person. If you can’t resolve it with them, maybe ask if you can bring in some righteous counsel of others with both sides willing to submit to Biblical correction. Some would rather ignore what they have done and just hope it goes away. That’s just pretense, not truth.

Religious rebuke vs. righteous rebuke

Often (and most unfortunately), we see a lot of Religious rebuke instead of righteous reproof on Facebook. The Bildad’s, Zophar’s and Eliphaz’s often come out to give advice. (Please friends, I’m not looking to accuse anyone or anger you, just to plead with you.) Look to the Lord to tell you your part in the matter, and to chasten or instruct you with His Word. Don’t set out to justify yourself to your hearing audience (or to me). In the end, it will come out anyways. 

We have a good example of what to avoid in these ‘friends’ of Job. They may think they are giving godly advice, but in truth they do not have the right answer, it has not been given them from the Lord. I do notice many will tell you without any fear or trembling, that what they tell you is from the Spirit. Even in the end, Job offered up a sacrifice and prayer for them. Oh, that we might be more like these godly examples.

We do need to be willing to hear the one with a righteous rebuke such as Elihu. These rebukes will settle as truth, like the Word of God does (even if we don’t initially like being rebuked). But the truth of God’s Word will bring forth bud, it will give us food to eat or seed to sow (Is 55:10-11). Those days of righteous judgment seem a little few and far between for the church in these last days. People would rather plead their cause first, and others assume them to be right without ever having heard both sides of a story. With no details, they come to the wrong conclusion. 

I watch sometimes (in a situation I have been involved with) as if I am on the outside. People often rush in to defend someone when they have no idea of the story. A recent event made me think of Brett Kavanaugh. I don’t know what the truth is in his situation, only the Lord knows the whole story. But I was sadly reminded people can state something that is completely false, and others will be quick to accept it as truth. The damage has often been done. Just complaining about others causes damage.

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!   James 5:9

LEAVEN

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Eph 5:15-16

Leaven is both sin and false doctrine. A little leaven can start growing fairly rapidly — ‘a little leaven can leaven the whole lump’. It’s why we need to try to keep short accounts with God and others. If something appears to be one way to us, we need to try to pray before we speak, then ask others what they meant (and consider we may have misunderstood). We should submit to God and resist the enemy. We can do this by not reacting quickly in our flesh, (being quick to take offense or quick to speak), but instead be ready to hear them, slow to speak, definitely slow to anger (see James 1:19-25). And besides being a doer of what we believe in (His Word), this is so important:

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.   James 1:26

Would people say that about you?  About me?  That we have self control where our tongue is involved?  And what does the Lord think?

Here is some other leaven we should avoid:

  • Leaven of the Pharisees – which is false Doctrine and hypocrisy (Matt 16:6-12; Luke 12:1)
  • Leaven of legalism – and the destruction it causes in the body and to the gospel (Gal 5:1-16)
  • Leaven of HerodMark 8:15, Herod was a wicked and adulterous leader.  We need to be careful of what we join ourselves to.  Pray for our leadership but be willing to call evil evil.  Remember, being unequally yoked to these things will puff us up if we are not careful, as leaven tends to do to the dough.
  • Leaven of Malice and wickedness:

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:6-8

Start with taking quick offense, or even a lack of truth and sincerity, and you have a full blown lump on your hands.   

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.  Ecc 7:9

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.  Prov 12:15

A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.  Pr 17:10

These Scriptures show us we need to listen to the righteous reproof of another.  A righteous rebuke would involve first knowing the story before making judgments or giving opinions.  It involves using His Word in the right manner (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Tim 2:23-26).  

I think the most repetitive rebuke by others in a recent misunderstanding was the statement that others should have gone to a person privately first.   What these helpful friends didn’t know (besides the story) was that multiple people went to her privately multiple times and the person’s response was to state publicly they were not going to answer private messages.   Please understand this is not about this particular person (as there were actually several who refused PM’s) but a pattern within some in the church itself.

Sin causes death

A fishing book was one source that mentioned collateral damage.  It spoke of those species who get caught up in the net that caused death – they call it collateral mortality.  

Sin causes death. It causes hurts and makes little ones stumble. So many are getting caught up in that net, and deeply wounded. A tongue creates strife and builds falsehoods into forest fires that are seemingly impossible to extinguish. The body is harmed in the process and the name of Christ is maligned by this type of behavior.  Christ gave Himself in great love for the body, do we really want to be a part of this?  

What should our response be?

If we are involved, first order of business is to ask Him to show us if we have a part in it. Private messages, texts and phone calls can innocently lead to gossip of or about others. Even if we feel we don’t have a part in misunderstandings, we can still acknowledge that social media doesn’t convey our tone or facial expression. We may have sounded a certain way whether we meant to or not. When we desire to do what we do as unto the Lord, we should be willing to be refined no matter how innocent our motives may be.  

We can be a Good Samaritan and help bind up the wounds of others, by sharing comfort from His Word for those who have been hurt, without stirring up more trouble. We can show love to Jesus by feeding or tending His sheep (Jn 21:15-17). And we can use His Word to answer others in wisdom and kindness. If we are part of a disagreement, we should not return railing for railing. 

We should pray for them, even if they’ve been spiteful towards us. We need to pray for those behind the scenes who may have been hurt and we don’t even know it. The effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much. We can demonstrate a certain speech and behavior before others (Titus 2). But we should try hard to refrain from justifying ourselves to others like Job did or we may very well end up being answered by God for our own words.

FINALLY:

In love — don’t feed the flames. Don’t show favoritism. Don’t show unrighteous judgment. Don’t chastise someone without knowledge. And remember blessed are the peacemakers.

2 Responses to “Collateral Damage

  • Amen, not railing for railing but blessing. If we are biting and devouring with words then there is no oneness of mind, just the opposite. But it ought not be so for believers.

    1Pe 3:8  Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 
    1Pe 3:9  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 
    1Pe 3:10  For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 
    1Pe 3:11  Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 

    Jim F

    • Thank you Jim. Sometimes people aren’t willing to be of one mind, may we do our part to try to achieve that. Too many need to be justified in front of others.

      Thank you for the passage. It’s a great one. Having compassion. Loving. Blessing those who revile us. Appreciate your wisdom always.

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