Friendly fire — Why do Christians attack each other?

I firmly believe sin should be confronted (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:12; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19) and that false teaching should be refuted (Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 4:2; Jude 1:3). At the same time, there is a right way and a wrong way to confront sin and refute false teaching, especially within the body of Christ. Far too often, Christians are wounded and the cause of Christ hindered by “friendly fire.” In military terminology, “friendly fire” is when allies are accidentally hit by weaponry. Sadly, in Christianity, the “friendly fire” is often intentional. was recently accused by another Christian ministry of “compromising God’s Word” and “undermining the authority of the Word of God and placing fallible man in authority over the infallible Word to reinterpret however he wants.” What was most frustrating and discouraging about the accusation, aside from the fact that it is baseless, is that it came from a like-minded ministry that we have endorsed and recommended for the past 18 years.

Interestingly, we are in essential agreement with the ministry on the doctrinal issue in question. But, we take a decidedly different approach to the issue. As a result, they view our article as attempting to compromise the Word of God with false doctrine. It is my strong contention that they are misreading the content and intent of the article.

It seems to me that this other ministry wants us to say, “_______ belief is a satanic deception invented by God-hating atheists” and leave it at that. However, since we do not take that approach, and our stance is not as strong as theirs against this belief, they contend we are compromising the Word of God. It is incredibly frustrating and discouraging to be attacked and misrepresented by an organization that is apparently so consumed with hatred of a particular viewpoint that they lash out at anyone who employs a different tactic other than the nuclear option.

With that said, we have already made some changes to the article to make its message clearer and are prayerfully considering additional revisions. We would have made these changes earlier if this ministry had confronted us in agreement with the principles of Matthew 18:15-17 instead of skipping the first two steps and starting with a public rebuke. We are willing to receive wounds from a friend (Proverbs 27:6), but that is not what happened in this instance. I would never rebuke a friend publicly before confronting him privately.

Thank you for the opportunity to vent a little. On to the topic at hand…

Why do Christians attack each other?

(1) Because we truly believe the beliefs and/or practices of other Christians are worthy of a strong rebuke.

(2) Because we too often elevate non-core doctrines to “essential of the faith” status.

(3) Because we enjoy arguing for the beliefs we are most familiar with, i.e., “pet” doctrines and hobby horses.

(4) Because attacking other Christians is less scary than contending for the faith against unbelievers.

(5) Because we are jealous of others’ success and believe that tearing them down will result in our own advancement.

(6) Because we receive praise from like-minded Christians when we attack what they view as false doctrine.

Contrast the above points with the following Scriptures:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).

“For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12:43).

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis added).

I do not know what motivated the other ministry in this instance. I truly hope it is (1) in the list above.

This incident has given me cause for a little self-reflection. If it has taught me anything, I have been reminded to be fair and accurate when speaking of other ministries and individuals. Also, while Matthew 18:15-17 is in the context of sin in the church, the principle applies more broadly. We should always confront fellow Christians privately before rebuking them publicly.

It is a travesty when any Christian dedicates a significant amount of time to attacking other Christians over disagreements on non-essential issues instead of proclaiming the gospel and destroying “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

S. Michael Houdmann

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Friendly fire — Why do Christians attack each other?