How to handle (not so) friendly fire

How to handle (not so) friendly fire

Israel’s recent accidental bombing of the World Kitchen food trucks in Gaza resulted in the tragic deaths of seven people, including three British nationals. This highlighted once again the dangers of being in a war zone and the inevitability that innocents will on occasion get caught in the cross fire. The phrase ‘friendly fire’ is described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the firing of weapons from one’s own forces or those of an ally especially when resulting in the accidental death or injury of one’s own personnel.” I’d like to share some thoughts on how to handle (not so) friendly fire.

How to handle (not so) friendly fire

Sadly ‘friendly fire’ occurs in all walks of life and if you live any length of time in this world you will have been on the receiving end. You may even be experiencing ‘friendly fire’ right now, however it probably doesn’t feel too ‘friendly!’. Friendly fire occurs when those who are supposed to be on our side, for whatever reason or purpose, fire at us. The reality is that sinful human beings sin against each other. We can all be guilty of this at times. People sometimes wrongly judge, criticise, slander, falsely accuse, misrepresent, betray, abuse and are disloyal. In many respects they are doing the devil’s work for him. He wasn’t described in the Bible at the ‘accuser’ and ‘father of all lies’ without reason!

The sad reality

We know it shouldn’t happen but the sad reality is that it does. I have certainly experienced my fair share of it over the years and like so many leaders in any context, I have been lied about, falsely accused, verbally attacked, threatened, misrepresented, betrayed, let down and even bullied.

They wished me dead!

On one occasion I had someone wish me dead (online). I’ve been trolled by people, with false identities on social media, to the point where we had to get the police involved. I’ve had people write letters saying that ‘I’ve done something so bad that they couldn’t say what it was!’ (Unlikely that they couldn’t say – I know!) People have attacked me for gently and lovingly challenge their sinful behaviour and others have attacked me for standing up for truth. I’ve had people pray against me. I’ve had people say some incredibly hurtful things about me and my family.

It’s not easy being a pastor or a leader. Anyone in any form of leadership, never mind Christian leadership, will face attacks and trials. It certainly is not for the faint hearted! You have to be called. I always say to people that you really (really!) need to know that you’re called.

Don’t be surprised

None of this should surprise us at all. In fact Jesus himself warned His disciples, 

”“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.“ (John 15:18-20)


You may be surprised reading this (particularly if you are not a Christian or a churchgoer) and it is little wonder at times that Christians are accused of being hypocrites. We probably deserve the label at times, however I would add that we’re all just sinners trying to live the right way, and most of us are still making lots of mistakes and bad choices (just like everyone else around us).

You may have been on the receiving end of friendly fire at home, work, school, college, club or within your own family or neighbourhood. My heart goes out to you. It can be deeply unpleasant and hurtful.

Pray Wait Trust

So – how to handle (not so) friendly fire

Take it to God in prayer 

”Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.“ (1 Peter 5:7)

He is most certainly your first port of call and whilst it’s helpful to be able to share what has happened with a close confidante, I would encourage you not to share it with anyone else. It only spreads the fire and potentially causes further discord and division. Bury it.

Try and get a Godly perspective on what has happened 

Whilst what you are facing is likely deeply unpleasant and even hurtful – the apostles  probably suffered far worse (Check out 2 Cor. 1:3-10 & 11:23-29). Consider first whether there is an element of truth in any accusations you’re facing (there are always things we can learn from any situation). However, if you’re being unfairly attacked – rejoice that the enemy is so riled with you, that he has used others to attack you and be assured that whatever you’re facing right now, God will be using it to strengthen and deepen your faith and trust in Him;

”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.“ (James 1:2-4)

Remember who the real battle is against

”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.“ (Ephesians 6:10-12)

We should always remember that our adversary is the devil and not people. That person who is attacking you right now is not the enemy. Don’t focus on them. The real enemy is one who is behind the attack. Sometimes he uses people for his own ends and sometimes they aren’t even aware that they are doing it. We must with God’s help stay strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

Show love

You may not feel like loving the human perpetrator right now, but Paul wrote a whole chapter of Corinthians on love and noted that – ‘love covers a multitude of sins.’ Love is a choice in spite of what people do to us. We are never more like God than when we love those who don’t deserve to be loved. You may need to ask God to help you with this one.

Show grace

I remember a friend several years ago challenging me by saying ‘you have quite a self-righteous streak Simon’. Wow – that hit home! But he was right and it is something that I have been praying about and working on ever since. None of us are perfect and so we need to show grace to one another. Paul wrote;

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)

Let’s make sure that all our conversations, and particularly when we come under fire, are full of grace and that our responses and reactions to things that we believe are non-sensical, unfair, untrue, unjust and unrighteousness need to be slower, more measured and with even more grace. We are none of us perfect.

Pray for the person (s) concerned

Quite simply – prayer doesn’t just change things – prayer changes people. Prayer brings conviction. Prayer softens hearts. Prayer calms anger. Prayer brings godly perspective. Prayer brings reconciliation. Prayer cause mercy to replace judgment. Prayer ends conflict. Prayer brings peace to combat zones. You will achieve far more by praying than by any conversation. It should be the first weapon in a Christian’s armoury. Don’t worry – pray!

Forgive, forgive, forgive

How many times did Jesus say we should forgive? (Matt. 18:21-35) Forgiveness releases the guilty party, but possibly more importantly – it releases you. It isn’t always easy and may take a little time, but we should always seek to forgive those who sin against us. We should also seek to be reconciled where at all possible – you may need to use the biblical principles within Matt 18 to resolve your situation. NB – always soak the matter in prayer first for as long as you can – I’ve seen God bring resolution and restoration to relationships and situations so many times, and primarily this has occurred through prayer. Prayer definitely changes people and their outlook.

Above all else guard your heart 

Solomon reminds us of the importance of keeping our hearts right,

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.“ (Proverbs 4:23)

We simply must keep our hearts right – the alternative is becoming angry, bitter and resentful and we don’t want to go there – it damages us and impacts all those around us and it really is not attractive. You may also need to reach out to someone you trust for some healing prayer and please don’t lose your joy – “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).

This too shall pass

There are suggestions that this often quoted phrase goes back to Solomon. In fact it may also have been popularised by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, during a speech to Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee on September 30, 1859. He was attempting to encourage the farmers who were facing incredible agricultural challenges in the nation at the time.

My experience reminds me that many of the bad experiences I went through eventually passed. They seemed massive at the time – but with God’s help and grace – we got through and you will too. Stay close to Him and He will get you through.

And finally…

Remember these words of Jesus,

”“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”“ (John 16:33)

And Paul;

”Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.“ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

NB: this article is not a reflection on any current situation I am facing right now – but rather I was inspired to right it after watching a movie on a plane recently.

Looking for something to read next…

“Imagine” is all about trusting God as you journey through life and how to really discover and experience the abundant life that God planned for you before you were born. Imagine is regularly used in churches as a Sunday teaching series and in small groups and is available on Amazon here.

“Courage for the discouraged” was published in November 2020 and has already touched and changed lives.  It is described as “a book of help and a book of hope” and “encouragement on steroids!” It can also be read as a 30 day devotional as each chapter contain readings and suggested prayers. It’s available at all good online bookstores and on Amazon here.

My wife’s book “End of the beginning” is a truly powerful book charting her journey from widowhood to finding Christ. It’s full of honesty and transparency. Julia’s book is not just a story of hope in the midst of loss – it’s a story of finding freedom from anger, hurt, failure and discovering purpose and fulfilment in Christ Jesus. It’s available on Amazon here and all good bookshops.

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