We often hear of the tragedy of collateral damage in war where non-combatants are killed in bombings of strategic targets. As much as the American military attempts to eliminate collateral damage it is almost impossible to do in some military action. This is especially true when our enemies use women, children, hospitals, and schools as “human shields” daring our military to strike a military target that is being “protected” by civilians. That is how much they devalue the lives of their vulnerable citizens.
Sometimes, as during WWII, non-combatants were actually targeted such as in the “blitz” of London in 1941 and following – or in the “revenge” bombings by the Allies of Dresden and Tokyo in Germany and Japan. In this unjust action, civilians ARE the targets and not really “collateral damage”. But they are still the innocents that get caught up in the conflagration that is all out war; collateral damage.
That happened in Israel in ancient times. Ezekiel wrote in 21:1-4 “The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuaries. Prophesy against the land of Israel l3 and say to the land of Israel, Thus says the LORD: Behold, I am against you and will draw my sword from its sheath and will cut off from you both righteous and wicked. 4 Because I will cut off from you both righteous and wicked, therefore my sword shall be drawn from its sheath against all flesh from south to north”
Israel lived as a community, a nation, a people. There was always a faithful remnant among vast majority of those that became disobedient idolaters. These were the “righteous”. These were the faithful, the remnant, the obedient ones interspersed among the idolatrous nation. And while God said often, “Every man shall die for his own sins, the son shall not die for the sins of the father, nor the father for the sins of the son” both the righteous and wicked stood side by side in the nation as a whole. Thus, when the nation was punished by invasion both the righteous and the wicked felt the effect of that. If God brought famine, the righteous suffered as well. They were the collateral damage of judgment.
When God brings disaster on America for our flagrant sinfulness all will suffer, both the righteous and the wicked. But the righteous will be saved eternally while the wicked suffer God’s judgment for eternity. The scythe of God’s harvesting judgment will fall on the tares as well as the wheat.
Let me reduce this principle down to a level we can comprehend. All of us live in “community”. In a workplace, in a neighborhood, in a church, or in a family we all belong to some entity that could be described as a community. Our actions as individuals impacts the whole either negatively or positively. We all have to do with one another. In Judges when Achan sinned it brought defeat on the entire nation. We do not live as islands unto ourselves.
Now, let’s bring it down to our family. The way I live affects my family. My faithfulness or lack thereof has an impact on my wife and kids. If I am a hypocrite that affects my kids. If God’s hand of judgment falls on me there is collateral damage. I have a responsibility as a family member to live so as to evoke God’s blessing upon my family and not his wrath.
Each one of you, all things being equal, have or will have your own families. You will impact that family one way or the other by either your faithfulness or your disobedience. Don’t cause your family to be “collateral damage” because of your own sin. Realize the awesome responsibility that is yours to live “in community” and to protect the rest of the community from the damage that can come because God has to deal with you.
There is nothing more important, precious, or joyous as the “community” in which you live. That community might be large (like the city or municipality in which you live), medium sized (like the church to which you belong), or it may be very small. Your family is that small yet most fundamental iteration of community. Protect yours from collateral damage by living the life God wants you to live so that his discipline of you would not have to negatively affect your family.