For many years I ministered alongside John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, best-selling author, pastor, international conference speaker, and worship songwriter. John was a remarkable person and quite an innovator when it came to “how we do church.” There is no doubt that John’s contributions to contemporary Christianity have influenced a significant portion of the Church throughout the world.
During the early days of ministry when John introduced new ideas and new approaches to ministry, he was often criticized and attacked by others from within the church. Many of us who worked with John questioned him about his unwillingness to respond to these attacks or challenge their legitimacy. John would respond simply by stating, “Your brother isn’t your enemy.” After a short pause, he would add, “He may act like it, but he’s not.”
Over the years I have seen many Christians act as if their brother is their enemy. One church criticizes another, warning people away from this thing or that; in most cases this is done without any first hand knowledge of the people involved in that particular ministry, or clear understanding of their actual beliefs. It reminds me of the time a few years back when I was doing some construction on a house. The owner of the house and another gentleman asked me what I thought of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. I responded positively about both the book and Rick saying how much I admired him and what he is doing. This unleashed a whole series of cynicisms about Rick and his book. Of course I realized at that point that they really weren’t interested in my opinion of his book, but rather were looking for a platform to expound their dogmatic views. I asked both of them a simple question: Have you read the book? Neither of them had, yet they were more than willing to share their negative opinions regarding this “unbiblical” book with me and anyone else within earshot. They based their opinion of Rick and his book on hearsay. Had they opened the book and read it, they would have realized that they were attacking a brother who is preaching to the world that there is more to this life than materialism and that God has a purpose and plan for their lives!
I think we can all agree that when the Apostle Paul instructed the Ephesians to“Put on the full armor of God” that he was concerned about the devil’s schemes, spiritual warfare, and the power of darkness. I don’t think he had “friendly fire” in mind, yet we so often have to use our spiritual armor to stand against the attacks and criticisms from those who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ. It is astonishing and shameful that we bite and devour one another, rather than attack the real enemy. Yes, we do have a real enemy and he is not your brother! He roams the earth “seeking whom he may devour.” He doesn’t need our help! “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).
A simple word of encouragement to us all: Give your attention to what God has called YOU to do. Keep in mind the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians: “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves“ (Philippians 2: 2-3).
When you are tempted to criticize and attack a brother or sister in Christ, remember “Your brother isn’t your enemy, even when he acts like it!”