Connecting with Culture
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At 5am on Thursday, Russia invaded Ukraine on three separate fronts: in the north from Belarus, in the east from Donetsk, and in the south from Crimea.
The horrific scale of the force – around 150,000 troops – and the severity of the initial assault were shocking. As disorientated Ukrainians mobilised to defend their nation, Putin chillingly warned that any country coming to their aid would face consequences the like of which had never been seen before.
The West has promised unprecedented sanctions, though Ukrainian appeals for financial support are increasingly giving way to pleas for military assistance.
Putin invaded on the invented pretence of liberating the country from genocide and neo-Nazism, positioning himself as some sort of justice-seeking saviour. But this is patent hypocrisy, supposedly ‘saving’ people through bloodshed and violence, purporting to keep peace whilst pursuing war.
It’s similar to the modus operandi of the Roman empire, who oppressed people in the name of peace and order 2,000 years ago. Except this time, it’s not down Roman roads, but Russian roads, that the war machines roll.
Yet, in a world of power and violence, Christ came not as the Messiah many expected. He overthrew Rome not by force, but by sacrificial love. In truly liberating the oppressed, the only blood this Messiah shed was his own, rebuking his disciples for trying to win by violence (Mark 8:29–33). Whatever road his followers take, cross-bearing is a precondition.
This wasn’t, however, a martyr complex. Jesus came to defend the vulnerable and complete his mission, which justified defensive swords smuggled into the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:38).
So, what might a Christlike response look like here?
It might look like the self-sacrifice required to put in place tough sanctions on Russia, even when measures hurt us as well. And, God help us, it may mean boots on the ground of a vulnerable nation to confront injustice. Whatever way we take, it will be fuelled by prayer, as genuine peace is beyond what we can secure in our own strength.
So, we pray for the Prince of Peace to reign over this conflict. We pray against bloodshed, and for violence to quickly end. We pray for wise leaders, and peacemakers on every side. Lord, show us how to defend the vulnerable. And may comfort and compassion conquer fear and violence.
For we pray in the knowledge that, just as Rome fell within centuries of Christ’s victory on the cross, the kingdom will always outlast the empire.
Editor, Connecting with Culture