Killing My Brother
The Holy Spirit uses terms of warfare to help us make a connection between physical war, which we can see, and spiritual war which is often unseen and rages all around us (2 Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:11-18). During my preparation for deployment to Afghanistan, we went through extensive medical training. During that time I realized how exceptionally fragile life is; how one accident, stray bullet, piece of shrapnel, or any other small thing can end life completely. I also learned how detrimental instances of friendly-fire can be to the morale of a unit. Something well intentioned (attacking the perceived enemy) can go completely wrong and cost the life of a brother- or sister-in-arms.
Like with physical warfare and how fragile this physical life can be, instances of friendly-fire in a spiritual sense can be just as detrimental to the morale of our spiritual body, our family, our brothers- and sisters-in-arms. Something well intentioned can go horribly wrong and cost the life of another Christian by destroying unity, as nothing can be more detrimental to a family than infighting or rumor. It is far too easy to talk of our negative opinion of another brother to someone else and find ourselves spreading false report, slandering, making assumption, back-biting and effectively killing the character of a brother or sister who never got the chance to know the enemy that was targeting them.
In this spiritual war, as with the physical, the life of a brother or sister is exceptionally fragile and can be destroyed with something very small, even something well intentioned. God did not mince words; if we find ourselves in the position of speaking evil of a brother, we are speaking out of turn and demonstrate that we do not love them (Titus 3:2; James 4:11; 1 Corinthians 13:7; Matthew 5:21-26). Further, He said that if we do not love our brother whom we can see, we cannot love Him whom we cannot see (1 John 4:20). Worse yet, if there’s hatred, then we intentionally kill a brother in spiritual terms (1 John 3:15).
If you find that you have participated in an instance of spiritual friendly-fire against a brother or sister by letting your negative or unwarranted opinion of them slip to another, or talking evil of them simply because you disagree, or spreading false report of them by continuing rumor of things you have no evidence of, there is still hope. Unlike life in the physical world, God in His mercy has set up a system where as long as there is physical life, the spiritual life and unity with God and His people can be restored. Repent, go to your brother or sister and ask them to forgive you; go to those you’ve spread false report to and tell them you were wrong and ask for their forgiveness. Then you will have restored the life of the brother or sister you took, and you can again love and worship God without issue (Matthew 5:21-26).
If you’ve been on the receiving end and someone has marred your character wrongly, you too have a responsibility to make things right as best you can. Jesus tells us to go to the one who has sinned against you, and tell them their fault, then take witnesses if they don’t hear you (Matthew 18:15-20). The goal is not to validate yourself or rub your brother or sister’s face in their fault, but to win them over and restore your spiritual relationship in love. When there are no witnesses and there seems to be an impasse, Paul advises to bury the hatchet and swallow our pride for the sake of brotherly love--this is why we would rather be wronged (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)! Either way, you should make a point to give the situation to God and pray that your heart, and the heart of the one who’s offended you, may be softened and that unity may be restored (Psalm 109:1-5; Philippians 2:3-4; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Whatever you decide to do, seek counsel from your brothers and sisters, do not make assumptions, do not delay in your response, and do not harm their character in retaliation. Love as Christ loved!
We can all learn how fragile spiritual life is when we see the effects that infighting, spreading rumor or character assassination can have on a brother or sister. I know I have shot a few of my brothers and sisters in the back, spiritually speaking, and I too have been shot. It is painful to see the relationships that are damaged and division it caused in the Body. But we can all learn the exceeding value God puts on spiritual life by allowing us the time to make it right and restore it once again.