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Friendly fire, or fratricide, refers to "the accidental killing of one's own forces in war." It has been estimated that between 2% and 20% of all war casualties have been the result of friendly fire -- troops with misinformation being commanded to fire on targets that are not enemies but instead are members of the same military operation. If you're interested in reading more, click here, here, or here.

Arguably the most famous incident involved former pro football player, Pat Tillman. Tillman was motivated to serve in the military following the events of 9-11, so he turned down a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract with the NFL to join the war on terrorism. While on patrol in Afghanistan, he was killed when three bullets, fired by American soldiers, hit him in the head. The visual conditions were poor. The technology failed to give accurate information, and a brave American hero died senselessly and tragically.

Regretfully, the Lord's army, a.k.a. the Church, is guilty of the same unfortunate act, that of injuring brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope, hope, hope that the injuries have been unintentional, but the hurt is still very real. People who have sought solace, comfort, hope, and strength from being a part of a church fellowship have instead experienced the pain of being attacked, shot down, injured, or "left bleeding on the side of the road" by those who have been given the mandate to love one another, be kind to one another, treat others as they want to be treated, and build others up.

Sometimes it's a seemingly small thing. I have a sweet friend who lives in another town. She is essentially homebound because of some physical issues and because she doesn't own a car. She was receiving a religious publication that she enjoyed very much, but the mailings stopped. When she called the church to find out about it, she was told that the church was trying to cut unnecessary expenses and providing a publication for someone who rarely attends was viewed as wasteful spending. They had also announced a new outreach program in which they would be visiting all the elderly, homebound, and inactive members. It has been MONTHS, and my friend is still waiting on her visit. She has also called the church to see if someone would drive her to a doctor's appointment but was turned down. These matters may seem unimportant to some, but they are not unimportant to my friend.

I know of another case where a very astute, capable, intelligent church member has offered his services to the church -- to teach a class, to help with a children's event, to help start a new ministry -- and he has essentially been ignored. The message has been clear to him. We don't want or need what you are capable of bringing to the table.

I personally have been a victim of friendly fire (well, actually it didn't feel very friendly at all) in four different churches. When your brothers and sisters behave in a way that seems unfair, judgmental, and unloving, it feels like a kick in the gut. Believe me, I know. Church is where I go to worship, to grow in my relationship with Christ and fellow believers, and to serve. I will continue to be in church because I know that Christ loves the Church. Ephesians 5:25 -- "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . ." I KNOW that churches are made up of imperfect people, and I am one of those imperfect people. I also know that people who have the most invested in a church, those who love it most, may be vulnerable to being hurt the most by someone in it.

I am a pastor's momma, as you know. And at this very moment, my daughter and her family have been going through hurtful, damaging times in their church. Sadly, friendly fire is alive and well.

If you've been a victim of friendly fire within your church, let me encourage you to stay faithful to Jesus, to keep praying and studying the Word of God. If you're being led toward another church, then go without kicking, screaming, accusing, or in any way damaging the one you're leaving. Learn from your past mistakes. Resolve to be the best version of yourself, and continue to love God and people (especially the ones who've hurt you the most).

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