“The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21 NIV).”
I recently watched a documentary in which a sniper was sent to kill a foreign head of state. The sniper was wearing camouflage from head to toe and found a spot over a mile away from his target and laid and waited for the perfect opportunity. During this period, the sniper could not eat, drink, or move – only wait and watch. Then, the opportunity finally presented itself, and the sniper estimated the distance to the target and adjusted for wind, grain of the bullet, air pressure, altitude, temperature, angle to the target, and other factors, and squeezed the trigger to deliver the kill shot.
I think we all see snipers in our daily lives. The “bullet” are words, and the target is somebody that the sniper is unhappy with. The word may be true, partially true, or completely false, but that is not nearly as important as the goal because the ends justify the means. The means is to discredit the other person by firing off seeds of doubt. The fingerprints of the enemy are evident in the attack. Just as “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10) so too does the sniper.
In the documentary I watched, the sniper was well camouflaged to blend in with his surroundings, which reminded me of the warning from Matthew 7:15. “Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” The modern sniper has much in common with the false prophet as both perceive they are more effective if they are able to influence as many people as possible.
The sniper uses his or her words to attempt to “kill” the target. Proverbs 18:21 teaches: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” Our words can either speak life, or our words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. The sniper may be active in the church but is in fact spiritually bankrupt and is cut from the same cloth as the narcissist. The sniper intentionally choses to live in unrepentant sin and disobey 1 Peter 4:11. “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very Words of God.”
The sniper is also a defiler. Matthew 15:11 warns us, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” To defile something is an act of great disrespect toward God and/or others. The sniper attempts to slander others but in reality only defiles themself and dishonors God.
Sometimes we are the target of the sniper, and our initial gut reaction is to seek revenge. However, if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we are the sniper. When we are the sniper, we feel justified because the target has hurt us, so we feel the need to hurt them back. We feel the need to speak negatively about this person to try to hurt their reputation, job, and friendships.
The sniper will seek to “kill” the target by speaking words of death to anybody that is close to the target – friends, neighbors, clergy, etc. A character assassination often does little to hurt the character of the target but speaks volumes about the character of the sniper. A sniper is essentially showing all with eyes to see and ears to hear exactly what is in their heart. Consider the words of our Lord from Matthew 12:34. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
A lie from a sniper does not become truth just because it is repeated like a fully automatic weapon with a large magazine. Most people that hear the accusatory words will dismiss the attack but if the goal is to sew endless seeds of doubt, then eventually one or two will eventually grow even in unfertile grounds. Others may choose to believe the sniper, and that is sad but their choice. However, if you are a follower of Jesus you know that nobody or no sniper can separate you from the love of God as found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).
Most people that hear the accusatory words will dismiss the attack, but if the goal is to sew endless seeds of doubt, then eventually one or two will eventually grow even in unfertile grounds. So, some may choose to believe the sniper, and that is sad but their choice. However, if you are a follower of Jesus you know that nobody or no sniper can separate you from the love of God as found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).
King David was attacked emotionally, verbally, and physically. As a young man, he was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king of Israel, but Saul was still king. Even though David served him loyally, Saul became jealous of David and decided to kill him. David had to hide from Saul in caves while lies were being told about him across the kingdom. Yet David never said a bad word against King Saul. He never retaliated. David was a sinner, but he was also a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
David modelled a proper response to attacks for us today by writing, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5). David trusted God to defend him. I can imagine that David wanted to rise up and do something about the attack, but he trusted God to be his defender. In short, David was living out two Bibles verses. First, “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 6:12). Secondly, “For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
The best response to a sniper is to stop and read the two Scriptures above and remind yourself that this person is acting out of some sort of unresolved anger and/or mental disease that has come into their heart, found fertile ground, and manifested in words. Then, pray that God will release them from this bondage, and they can find victory and freedom in His grace and peace. As you release your anger and disappointment, a peace will fall upon you and the victim that is truly set free is yourself. The sadness may linger for a period, but the sniper has actually brought you closer in relationship with the Father as you remember, “the LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Prayer: Dear God, Forgive us for the times that we are the sniper and speak words of death regarding others. Forgive us for the times that we become complicit when others speak words of death regarding a brother or sister in Christ. And, forgive us when we are the sniper and seek to deceive, divide, and destroy. We know that others will recognize us by our fruits so help us to show the fruits of your Spirit in our words and actions. Amen!
Meet the Author
Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He currently serves as the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and is a Board Member for Gulf South Men and serves on the Action Team for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
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