Since last week the world has held its breath as Vladimir Putin engaged in a reckless, corrupt, shocking, and terrifying invasion of Ukraine. Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see where this all goes. The reality is that nobody knows. Now that the invasion has begun, not even President Putin knows how this will end.
As I have been watching the news and trying to think through a faithful, biblical response, I have been transfixed by the way several striking images are illustrating the headlines. I want to point to three images from three news stories that help identify three faithful Christian responses to this tragedy.
The first image is absolutely horrifying. It is a picture of a nameless and defenseless woman that was released after the invasion began. Her face is covered with wounds and her eyes are filled with doubt and fear.
This heartbreaking picture reminds us of the real human toll that the headlines report. It points us to the first way that Christians must respond, and that is with utter heartbreak. The Bible demands that we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
The invasion of Ukraine is a colossal human tragedy, and no Christian can let wealth, continents, or oceans create an emotional distance that keeps our hearts from breaking. Countless innocent lives will be lost and destroyed because of this act of moral evil, and Christians must weep over that fact.
The second image is even more bracing than the first. It is the image of an elderly woman squinting down the barrel of an automatic weapon. You can see the hand of a Ukrainian soldier helping to steady the weapon, apparently training her to use deadly force against Russian invaders. This picture was released after the Ukrainian government called on citizens to defend their country and began distributing weapons to help them do this. In one way this picture is as horrifying as the first, since no elderly woman should ever need to take up arms to protect her home.
On the other side of the horror, however, is the encouragement of a woman who is unwilling to take an invasion lying down. If a foreign invader comes for her home, they may get it, but only after they encounter the business end of a machine gun.
This image reminds us of the requirement to be resolved. Ecclesiastes 3:8 states that there is a time for war. Christians are often more comfortable talking about the other part of that verse addressing the necessary time for peace, but when 150,000 Russian troops are kicking in your door it’s time to fight. It is crucial that the innocents in this fight match the resolve of the assailants.
Not everyone’s resolve will look like the armed woman in the picture. Some people will need to fight, others will send aid, some Christians will need to bring refugees into their homes. We can all pray. We can also encourage our leaders to do the right thing and stand with these desperate people in their time of urgent need. I know there are not easy answers in a conflict like this, but everyone should remember that history is never kind to aggressors or to those who tolerate their aggression.
We must all be resolved to stand with Ukraine in any way we can.
The final picture is of a group of men praying in Kharkiv, Ukraine around the time the invasion began. I mentioned prayer, above, regarding our resolve to fight. But here I mention prayer regarding our confidence in God. We can be confident that God is going to do a good work in this wicked moment. The nations may rage but they cannot stop the purpose of God to build the Church of Jesus Christ.
2,000 years ago, Jesus made a promise to build his church (Matthew 16:18). It is a promise he has never broken. He is not about to start breaking it today.
I mentioned earlier that I have no idea how this thing will end. I really mean it. When this thing is over, I don’t know if there will be a Ukraine, a Russia, a Poland, a NATO, or even a Europe. But I know there will be a church. Jesus has always been building it. He is building it now. In easy times and challenging ones, the Word of God is expanding, the people of God are growing, and the Son of God is gaining fame and honor.
In the midst of heartbreak and resolve, the work of Jesus to build his church gives us confidence even when the world is at war.
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