By Nick Brzozowski
2022 started out with a bang, didn't it? We saw about as many cases of COVID in just two months than we did all of 2020! But, right when we thought things were about to settle and be back to “normal,” we hear of an invasion in Ukraine.
Before sharing a few of my thoughts on how God sees these world events and how we should think about them, I think I’d better get my disclaimer out of the way. I am no expert in politics or cross country affairs or Russia or Ukraine. Also, I am writing this in March of 2022, so a lot, no doubt, is still going to happen and unfold. But, what I am hearing about in the news makes me think of a few different biblical principles that might be helpful for us to remember.
So, let’s get to it.
Here are six ways we should think about the way in Ukraine.
#1. God is Really The One With the Nuke Button.
Immediately, hearing the news about Russia’s invasion was pretty freaky to me. I paused and took a deep breath and asked - “When was the time a powerful nation invaded another nation?” And my imagination took my little knowledge of world history back over 80 years ago to Germany, Poland, World War II, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The next question that popped into my head was, “I wonder if we have more or less nuclear bombs now compared with then?” Thanks to Wikipedia, we can see that in 1945, there were two atomic bombs in the world. As of 2020, there were 13,000 (with Russia holding 6375 - more than any other country).
But, apparently, nuclear bombs are event the biggest threat. According to other sources I have seen, the real threat is a bio-chemical weapons. Could Russia have the technology to cause another pandemic? And what does it mean that they are accusing the US of having this crazy stuff?
All this to say, it wouldn’t be totally absurd to feel slightly afraid right now.
So, what can we lean on for peace?
King David faced real enemies and real military threat. Of course, technology has advanced since his day, but there were some brutal battles as well that took lots of lives. In fact, we have become much more stable and secure in our modern world compared to what David faced in his.
He writes, “Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand firm” (Psalm 20:7-8). He took comfort in God providing literal protection for him and the nation of Israel. Today, God is picking sides like he did then, but we can have comfort in meditating on the strength and capability of God.
God is the one who, ultimately, has power over the nuke button. He rules over the nations (Psalm 22:28). He is present in every detail of history, whether it is in the care of the smallest sparrow (Matthew 6:26) or the heart of the most powerful dictator in the world (Exodus 4:21).
Jesus, looking ahead to all the persecution that his followers would face, reassured them. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
And no one is taking it from Jesus!
#2. God Has a Big Heart for Refugees.
There are refugees coming from not only from Ukraine, but also from Russia and are escaping to other countries. I’ve been encouraged to hear of Christians covering the cost for AirBnb’s around the world for these people to have somewhere to stay.
After God brought Israel out of Egypt, he gave the laws around dealing kindly with the foreigners (Exodus 22:21). Since they were foreigners in Egypt, they should not forget the suffering that other foreigners may deal with. Later, God judges Israel for mistreating the foreigners (Ezekiel 22:7).
In Deuteronomy 10:18, it reads: “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” God loves the foreigner! And he provides for them. Today, he is using people around the world to do that very thing.
#3. America is Not at the Center of God’s Will.
Not long after hearing news of the war, my mind began to think - “What is America going to do?” Granted, that makes sense since I live here. But, I couldn’t help but think of the US as the game-changer, as if the world is counting on us getting involved.
Now, personally, I am not qualified to say what we should or shouldn’t do as a country. Obviously, we need smart, qualified leaders making the tough calls. I think it makes sense to do the sanctions and have not heard too many people objecting that either we need to support Russia’s conquest on the one hand or we need to fight back immediately on the other.
But, I think it is healthy for American Christians to remember that America shows up a grand total of zero times in the Bible. We are not at the center of the world or of God’s will.
In fact, Israel, God’s chosen people in the Old Testament, were not even the only place God was working. In Amos 9:7, God reminds them of his work around the world: “Israelites, are you not like the Cushites to me? This is the Lord’s declaration. Didn’t I bring Israel from the land of Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Arameans from Kir?” Israel’s defining event that set them apart from the other nations was their deliverance from Egypt. But, God actually delivered two other nations out of oppression.
God is much bigger than any one nation.
#4. God Isn’t Fond of World Domination.
One question I have been wondering is: “Is Putin content with brining Russia back to its Soviet Union days or is world domination his ultimate goal?”
When James and John ask Jesus to be able to sit at his right and left in the kingdom, Jesus teaches them a lesson. He says that the world keeps climbing for more and more power and seek high positions to act as tyrants. But, Jesus calls us to be servants of one another. Even Jesus himself did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:24-28).
Conquest, rule, authority and the desire for power are not anything new today. Of course, you are not Putin. But, don’t we all have that hunger for power? Maybe, Putin can be a reminder for us to seek to love and serve others more than we wish to control them.
#5. We Should Carry One Another’s Burdens.
I just saw the headline that our products in the U.S. are going to become less and less available. Gas prices have already been going up. Now, we may not have access to things, like milk, as easily either.
Paul tells us in Galatians 6:2 to carry one another’s burdens. Instead of seeing this as a random additional problem you have to deal with in your life, maybe you could start seeing this as a privilege. By paying a little extra to drive around, you are serving people on the other side of the planet.
#6. Vengeance in the Lord’s (But Self Defense Is Ok Too).
Recently, I have come across more and more Christian pacifists. They will take Jesus’ words to love your enemy (Matthew 5:43-44), his rebuke to Peter for chopping of the soldier’s ear (John 18:10-11) and his silence at his own trial (Mark 14:61) to mean that Jesus doesn’t want there to be any violence for any reason at all.
Further, Paul quotes Scripture by saying, “Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, ‘vengeance belongs to me; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
While the Old Testament had their fair share of violence, there seems to be more of a shift toward peace in the New Testament. In fact, many of the first Christians were pacifists, until Augustine argued in the 400s AD that it was ok for Christians to serve in the military.
Even if there is a greater emphasis in the New Testament for peace, that doesn’t mean that there is never a just cause for violence. The same sword that Jesus told Peter to put away was the one that he instructed him to keep on him (Luke 22:36).
So, I think we are right to be slow to join the war. I don’t think we should be quick to seek violence. But, I don’t think following Jesus rules out all forms of violence. We should love our enemies. But, we can also protect ourselves and others.
I tend to see Ukraine fighting back as a means of defending themselves, which is a good thing.
These were only a few of my thoughts as it relates to some of the news coming our way and what I understand of following Jesus. Of course, we should keep both the people of Ukraine and Russia in our prayers as they endure such severe trials.
One practical action step you can take is to give. If you'd like to give to churches in Ukraine at this time, you can give here via Converge, our affiliation.