Once upon a time I was listening to a perfectly acceptable sermon when the preacher, probably trying to be funny, took a side swipe at the leader of another local church. They disagreed on a few points of theology. Not the big stuff, mind you.
- Both pastors were of the Christian faith.
- Both agreed on every element of the Apostle’s Creed.
- Both were devoting their lives to evangelism and discipleship.
Still, the subtle shot was fired. Little seeds of division were planted. Satan and his minions rejoiced, no doubt, at another opportunity to fan the flames of denominational division.
Volleys will be fired again this week. Somewhere other pastors will joke or jibe at a fellow laborer’s expense with just the “right” degree of derision in their tone.
- Some listeners will let that hint of dissension grow into disdain for all those who do not believe precisely the same list of theological tenets professed by their church of choice.
- Some will be repulsed by the negativity of their own pastor and miss the good meat of the rest of the sermon.
- Perhaps worst of all, some new or soon-to-be believers will go away disappointed or confused, less certain of the Truth that was beginning to take root.
And in all of it, the enemy will have won another small victory.
Ephesians 4:29 reads, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The pulpit is not the only place where Christians tend to slander one another, yet God asks us to be kind to one another, to love one another and to keep “the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Friendly fire? There is nothing friendly about it. Won’t you pray with me that it will cease someday?