I was watching a movie recently. It was an action movie about saving a ship of people from death. There were men in the engine room area working furiously to try and solve the issues that seemed insurmountable. Everything was happening so fast and a decision had to be made. A button was pushed and the area was sealed off to hopefully stop the ship from sinking. Something about sealing off the area. All the men drowned as the water rose inside that engine room. The words collateral damage came to mind. Maybe they said it in the movie, I’m not sure. I have been chewing on those words for days now. So here I sit at my laptop at 11:52pm, needing desperately to write out all the thoughts that have been swimming in my head for the last two hours. Please don’t ask me what the name of the movie was, because I honestly cannot remember and I did not finish watching it. Movies where people die senselessly disturb me. Anyway. I have been thinking about the fact that collateral damage happens all around us. Whether it is in relationships, marriages, decisions, and yes, even in church. I don’t think as Christians we intentionally make decisions, or do things to cause people to be collateral damage or be hurt, or even to be made to feel unnecessary but it happens. I think, sometimes, we are so intent on doing what we believe God has called us to do, that we do not consider the affects our decisions and actions have on other people. How many times have I made a decision, or chosen one person over another, neglected a relationship, or maybe just been insensitive with my words? Even now as I type, I feel sick in thinking that I have caused someone to be hurt, feel ignored or invisible, cast aside, or to be disillusioned with being a part of a church family. Lord, please forgive me if and when I have done this. The words collateral damage may seem harsh. But this is a harsh world. I think, sometimes, as our sinful human nature desires its’ own way, we don’t consider how others will be affected. Not intentionally. I really don’t think it’s always intentional. But it happens. I think back on decisions I have made, or ideas I have had, and I cringe at the times I did not consider the effect on those around me, just because I felt like God was telling me to do something. Which brings me to a series I have been watching called The Chosen. It is a series following the ministry of Jesus. It has sent me back to God’s Word over and over again, reading the details of different stories. It has been amazingly accurate and true to what is written. But by putting a visual representation to stories I have known most of my life, it has become even more real. It has caused me to really think about the people involved and Jesus’ interaction with them. From calling the apostles, delivering Mary Magdalene of demons, healing the lame man to raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. I was especially moved by Jesus’ interaction with the woman with the issue of blood. He called her daughter. With the apostles, Jesus personally called each one of them. He knew their strengths and weaknesses, their gifts and their individual personalities. He knew them. And, He had plans for them. He listened to them. Sometimes using their ideas and sometimes not. But never dismissing them. He used them to change the world. As Jesus was headed to Jairus’ house, He was surrounded by a crowd of people. He was on a mission to save a little girl. But when the woman, who had suffered with the issue of blood for twelve years, pushed in to just touch the hem of his garment, He knew. He knew she was there. He could have not allowed her to be healed, because he was headed to raise a little girl to life. He was trying to get there as quickly as possible in the midst of the crowd of people, but He stopped. He called out, knowing she was there and He stopped what He was doing to connect with her, to go one step further than healing her, to show her love, to show her she was seen. To call her daughter. To show her she was important. Valued. She could have just been collateral damage. Ignored and pushed aside as He went to do something important. No one would have cared or noticed. But He was doing what God sent Him to do. He was doing ministry.
We are in a battle in this world, because as Christians, we are not of this world. It’s tough. We want to do the right thing. We want to do what He has called us to do. We want to make a difference. But sometimes we get so focused on the mission, we miss the people around us who God may use in our lives to help us complete that mission. Instead, they become collateral damage. Not intentionally. I don’t think most people who call themselves Christians would intentionally hurt others. So yes, sometimes we unintentionally have people in our lives, in our ministry, in our calling that become collateral damage. We are so intent on moving in a direction, we don’t even notice the hurt or the damage we have caused. For myself, I am praying God will make me more aware of my choices, my decisions, my conversations, and my actions, so that I do not cause anyone to be collateral damage. I am asking God to make me aware and sensitive to other people. Help me to discern who to listen to and who to connect with. I pray he helps me know when to listen and when to stay the course. In this world, God has called us to Him, and He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, and our gifts. He wants to use all of His children to share the gospel, to love, to connect, to include, to care, to encourage those around us in order to change the world. Let us work together. Let us listen to each other. Let us be kind and considerate to each other. Let us realize that all of us are important in furthering the kingdom of God in whatever way He has called and equipped each of us. No one should be or feel like collateral damage in God’s family.