“…do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand….” (Isaiah 41:10)
I imagine that you, like me, have been giving much thought to the invasion of Ukraine. In my reflection below I give consideration to the question: “What should be our response to the events in Ukraine as followers of Christ?”
Some prominent evangelical leaders see the invasion as a possible prelude to the ‘end times’, to the ‘apocalypse’ and the second coming of Christ. They quote Matthew, chapter 24 in which Jesus says, “….You will soon hear about wars and threats of wars, but don’t be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn’t the end…..” It seems that these ‘end-time’ theologians ignore the words “..that isn’t the end…” And, as they make their end-time predictions, they conveniently ignore Jesus’ words, in the same chapter of Matthew, “But about that day and hour no one knows”.
It can be tempting to throw up our hands in despair and resignation believing that this is all God’s will and decide to do nothing and wait for God to act with some sort of direct intervention. The fact is that for two thousand years since the gospels were written, there have been ongoing and frequent wars and threats of wars, but the end hasn’t arrived. Rather than getting ready for, concerned about, or obsessed with, as some are, an unknown and unknowable apocalyptic scenario, Jesus expects us to be ready at all times, ready to respond to wars and rumors of wars according to his example and teachings. A Christian response is not one of resignation, simply waiting for God to intervene nor is it a matter of just letting it happen as if death and destruction are God’s inevitable way with the world.
Our Christian response might be like that of Jeremiah who in the midst of an army’s invasion, purchased land signifying hope for the future and a determination for preserving the present.
Or our response might be like that of the prophet Habakkuk who in a time of trouble and war, wrote these amazing words, “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; God makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights.”
In the midst of loss and death and destruction, Habakkuk trusts in the power and goodness of God to uplift and strengthen, enabling people to endure hardship, resist evil, and ultimately to partake in the victory of good over evil, hope over despair, peace over war, life over death.
Our response, I believe, is to continue striving to live in the Way of Christ. To me that means acting in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, offering resources to trusted organizations such as the Red Cross or our own United Church of Canada so that medical supplies, food and water, clothing and basic needs can get to those fleeing the war; to offer support for refugees especially those arriving in our province; supporting peaceful protests and actions to pressure an end to hostilities. We are to offer prayer, words of hope, and acts of kindness where we can.
In this time of year, as we travel with Jesus to Jerusalem and the Cross we are reminded of how God was active in transforming the horror of the Cross to the glory of the Empty Tomb. God is still active in this pattern of transforming ‘Good Friday’ horrors to ‘Easter Sunday’ glories. The story of Good Friday to Easter tells us that God is active within human struggles; is actively present in places and times of suffering, working with people of good will, to bring hope from despair, triumph from tragedy, good from evil, peace out of war, and new life and fresh possibilities rising from death and destruction.
Our response is to live in the Way of Christ, being forces for good, love, justice, and peace in our homes, our churches, our neighbourhoods and in the wider world.
Let us not be overwhelmed by the evil that, at times, seems to prevail, but, rather, let us be imbued by the power of the Holy Spirit that fills us with hope and strengthens us to bear such hope to others. This is my prayer for all of us living in the world today with its unprecedented troubles, challenges, and needs.
God be with you as you live in the Way of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for the benefit of the world God loves.
(Image courtesy of https://laurazee.com/portfolio/ukraine-sunflower-field/)