Watch My Six – Guard One Another

Published 1:11 pm Sunday, May 7, 2023

By Michael J. Brooks

Hers was the voice of a generation, and this year marks the 40th year of her passing. Karen Carpenter left us much too soon on Feb. 4, 1983, at age 32.

A music critic early in her career called her “chubby,” and this began her life-long struggle with self-esteem. By the time she sought help with her eating disorder, the singer weighed only 83 pounds. Her body was too weak to recover, and she died of heart failure.

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Of course, this disease wasn’t well-known 40 years ago, and Carpenter’s family and friends probably didn’t know exactly what to do. Thus, we can only ponder how she could’ve been helped had someone been assertive and partnered with her in a quest for wellness.

The best-known passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is his description of the Christian’s armor: the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, etc. (Ephesians 6). Whereas his armor protects the warrior on the field of spiritual battle, it’s true that he has vulnerability. The warrior can see frontally and laterally but cannot see danger from behind. That’s why police and military often say, “watch my back” or “watch my six.”

Though Paul doesn’t exhort specifically to guard one another in this chapter, I believe he does in other parts of the New Testament. One task we have in the church of Christ is to take responsibility for one another. We do so by praying, encouraging, mentoring, and sometimes by confrontation. No one enjoys confrontation, but there are times when Christians seem unaware of conduct or attitudes unbecoming and need to hear the loving counsel of a friend.

Sometimes our errors are unintended, such as when words we meant to be light-hearted are taken hurtfully by a hearer.

Sometimes our offense is unintentional and unknown.

Most pastors know the sting of criticism that we didn’t contact sick parishioners, though often no one told us about the illness.

I remember a lady chastising me for not coming to the hospital to meet her new baby. I stood with her husband and saw the baby through the picture window while the mother was sleeping, and the excited father never told her the pastor had been by.

But sometimes offense is deliberate and hurtful. Christians make bad choices about things we do or places we go or attitudes we demonstrate. In the same way that an electric shock gets our attention, the loving rebuke of a friend gets our attention. Scripture exhorts us to gently restore the fallen, and to do so humbly since we, ourselves, are subject to failure.

Even though “armored up,” every believer needs the partnership of others in our spiritual family who watch our backs. 

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.