If attacking fellow Christians were a real career it would be easier for some of us to get jobs. It’s long been popular to attack other believers, but thanks to the Internet its far more “fun” these days. The gospel calls us, however, to stop cheering on these Christian Cannibals.
What is a Christian Cannibal? A Christian Cannibal is one who makes it their sole priority to critique, attack, and metaphorically eat alive his brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s the cat who has a blog and spends every day posting about another believer’s faults, calling out the “heretics.” Cannibalism among Christians is not the same as genuine, loving, correction. It is built off of a need to satisfy the self. The Cannibal seeks to nourish himself, promote himself, make a name for himself, by means of attacking others. The Cannibal believes not only is she right in attacking this fellow Christian, but that this is their given responsibility before God and man. But, as the name suggests, Christian Cannibalism is an awful way to live and conduct ourselves among the people of the living God.
The Bible talks about the church in the language of a body and a building. There’s this inherent idea that we are all one unit working together with Christ. We need each other, we are dependent upon each other. There’s a sense in which to attack the church it to attack yourself. The Christian Cannibal wants to stand outside the body of Christ and pick it apart, but if she is a real believer then she can’t do that. Listen to how Paul describes the church and the relation of each individual Christian to others. He writes:
2 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Christian Cannibalism, especially in the age of the Internet, tells us it is a Christian eat Christian world out there. It tells us every believer is for himself. But the gospel tells us something completely differently. It says we are all members of one body and eating your fellow brother up is destroying yourself! Members out to have the same care for one another, Paul writes. That’s part of what it means to be the church.
It’s not that there isn’t a place to give criticism, to call out wolves and real heretics. But the way we do even this is important and the way we identify heretics is important. Leaders especially, must be able to protect the church from false teachers and false doctrines. And the importance of mutual accountability means that we must be willing to confront the church’s weaknesses and faults. But we do so not as an attacker, not from the outside, but as a lover, as a member of the church. Maybe we critique recognizes too that we have been part of the problem. Lord knows I have had my share of “cannibalistic” moments, and for this I repent.
Eating each other alive does nothing to further the cause of Christ. It does nothing to build up the church (even when we think we are correcting others). It does nothing to promote the unity of the believer. And it usually only fuels our own self-righteousness, and individualism. What we need are people who can correct with humility, and who seek to build up the unity of all believers in the church. Christian Cannibalism must stop, because, after all, it’s not really cannibalism. Attacking fellow believers is really just attacking your own body, it’s masochism. Worse than that, since the church is the body of Christ, it can sometimes (often?) be attacking Christ, and that should caution us all!