In the heat of battle, troops become confused, and, sometimes, they fire at their own troops. They don’t mean to kill their own, but they think they are engaging the enemy. This is called friendly fire, and wherever there is conflict, there is friendly fire.
The same is true in spiritual warfare. Christians become confused, and they think they are battling the enemy but end up fighting each other. In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul gives the churches in Galatia a warning about spiritual friendly fire. Through Paul’s letter, we can define spiritual friendly fire, its cause, and the its cure.
What is spiritual friendly fire?
We can define spiritual friendly fire as
"...hurting each other and tearing each other apart…" (v. 15.) I know you are thinking, "That doesn’t happen in our church," but I ask you to look a little closer. Has anyone ever left your church because feelings were hurt? Has anyone every left your church because they did not feel like a part of the family? If that is the case, then your church has experienced spiritual friendly fire.
What is the cause of spiritual friendly fire?
In verses 19 through 21, Paul gives us a long list of wrong things that sinful self does. Among these, jealousy, selfishness, and envy stick out in my mind as major contributors to spiritual friendly fire. However, all these things point to one thing: sinful self. It is our pride and selfishness that causes us to hurt others and be hurt by others. Paul warns in verse 26:
"We must not be proud or make trouble with each other or be jealous of each other."
What is the cure for spiritual friendly fire?
In one word: love. Three times in this passage, Paul mentions love. Paul encourages us to let the Spirit produce its fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We should
"serve each other with love" (v. 13). We should
"Love your neighbor as you love yourself" (v. 14). Love is about putting others before self, and by putting others first, we keep sinful self under control.
Just as in physical warfare, friendly fire will happen in spiritual warfare. Friendly fire happens when sinful self is in control. The church can combat friendly fire by showing love to everyone and putting others first. Paul said it best in verse 14:
"The whole law is made complete in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’"
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.