If you haven’t seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge, it’s pretty great. Lots of gore (it’s a WWII film about one of its most deadly battles), but also a really compelling story of faith.
The film got me thinking about the damage a sniper can do. In war, a sniper can take out soldiers from a great distance, at little risk to himself. From the shelter of a ridge or a tree line, a sniper can fire bullets and end lives, all while staying pretty safe.
Yet snipers aren’t just found in war. Sometimes we are snipers, too. You, me. Not with bullets but with words.
I listened to a podcast recently where the hosts interviewed a Christian theologian I really respect. I’ve read his books for a long time; he’s a great thinker. I was excited to listen to him.
Then he started speaking. His first words were a snipe at a theologian he didn’t agree with on a narrow topic. His opening statement wasn’t simply an intellectual disagreement; it was an unnecessary and personal remark. Then he moved on to attack a new church-planting movement he found distasteful.
By the time he started in on his main point, I couldn’t listen anymore. I turned him off.
It made me think of all the times I’d used my words to be biting rather than kind, to sting instead of heal, to wound rather than restore. I, too, have been a sniper.
Friends, there is room for disagreement in Christianity. Strong debate, vehement frustration, righteous anger. We can and should and must debate theology, tradition, orthodoxy, where the church is headed and what our role in the culture should be. This is part of being good stewards of the way of Jesus, of being faithful Christians.
But sniping? There is no place for that.
Take it from Paul:
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. –2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Infighting in Christian circles only serves to show the world that we don’t mean what we say or practice what we preach.
The way of Jesus is a sniper-free zone. Let’s put down our metaphorical weapons and speak loving truth, kind wisdom, and faithful peace.
Have you ever felt the sting of a word-sniper? Have you ever been that sniper, but had a change of heart?