As you likely now know, Russia has invaded Ukraine. Much could be and has been said about the geopolitics of the situation, and any major news outlet is keeping pace with events as they unfold. What is behind the war and does it make any sense? Is it a worthy war? That is a question for others to answer. As I reflect on this tragedy unfolding, I am reminded that as is so often the case, the livelihoods and lives of normal people are the price that is paid for the ideologies and visions of leaders, countries, and groups. While certainly there a differences among peoples and worldviews and ideologies, it is hard to ever conclude that approaching your neighbor with a rifle is the best way to show love to them. Yet, time and time again, that is the way we solve problems in life: political problems, economic problems, relational problems, personal problems. Russia is by no means the only country which has made use of thin pretexts for the purpose of self-aggrandizing wars, wars calculated to serve self-interest. And the cycle goes on.
There is no end in sight. While the Ukraine conflict, or war, or whatever name we end up calling it, will someday (hopefully very soon) end, the cycle of violence will continue. And this is simply because the problems at the root of it are bigger than nationalism, bigger than political ideologies, bigger than economics, or history, or ethnic and language groups. The problems which keep driving this forward can’t be stopped by negotiation, sanctions, political organizations, or even big armies (even if all these things are often helpful in restraining the very sort of armed conflicts and wars which have been relatively infrequent around the world in the last century–as compared to other periods of world history, that is).
At the heart of this conflict is the simple reality that humans are broken. Our hearts are bent and don’t work like they are supposed to. Because we do not all worship King Jesus, our hearts worship other things and are led astray. Whether power, politics, fame, fortune, whatever it be, whenever we seek our identity, our purpose, our sense of value and belonging in anything apart from God, people will suffer. We will suffer and people around us will always pay the cost. Mixing our sin and the sins of others never results in a better situation. It is a vicious cycle that (most) people hate but we cannot escape. That is the clear lesson not just from Scripture, but from the pages of history. Until all people worship King Jesus, there will always be other kings in our hearts who drive us to hurt ourselves and others in their service.
As I reflect on this situation, I offer the following prayers:
Lord God, Father of all, Ruler of all,
- We pray that the fighting in Ukraine would cease;
- We pray for mercy on those who are injured, that their lives would be spared;
- We pray for the enormous numbers who are put in danger simply because of where they happen to live, what geopolitical unit they happen to “belong” to, and who now have no choice but to suffer for the sinful acts and intentions of others;
- We pray for acts of mercy to triumph over acts of violence in those who are fighting;
- We pray that whoever emerges in power in different areas of the country will exercise that power not to oppress and destroy, but to give people the opportunity for life and hope;
- We pray that peoples’ hearts will be lifted to look for hope not in sanctions, nor armies, nor multi-lateral treaties, nor strategic military interventions, but in the God who holds all things in his hands, even things as hard and seemingly senseless as this fighting.