What should be the Christian response to Russia invading Ukraine?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: How should the Ukrainians proceed to be angry but not sin? What should it do to be loving its enemy, Russia? How would Jesus want Ukraine to treat Russia?

Answer: Greetings friend. Thank you for asking such a timely question. I need to tighten up some concepts first — so bear with me. Then we can get to the meat.

There is a difference between the nation Ukraine and Ukrainian people, and there is a difference between the country of Russia and the Russian people. You seem to be confounding the two... especially in your last two questions. As Christians, our concern should not be for the countries per se. It should be for people of those countries. We must remember that although a nation’s politics and its actions represent some kind of consensus among its people, they never reflect their desires perfectly... and they are never the desires of every citizen. Countries and people are different things.

The issues in Russia are exacerbated by two more entities that are easy to confound: the will of Vladimir Putin and the will of the Russian nation. The Western newscasts hint that Putin is going rogue. But this is the nature of nations. Their interests are national — not godly. But if there is an evil person at the reins who is forcing a personal agenda in the name of the people, he could start a global conflict despite the will of his people to the contrary.

You see, it is appropriate for the nation Ukraine to act in its own interest. So, even if we could agree that when a nation stands down that they are turning the other cheek — and I don’t believe that when nations do this that they are following Jesus’ instructions — they would be relinquishing control of their country... which is rarely in the country’s best interest. It might be necessary for the short term though... to minimize the loss of human life and infrastructure. But at their core, nations want to thrive, not just survive... and national identity is fundamental to that struggle.

Now, there are disciples of Jesus Christ living in Russia and Ukraine. As such, Christianity is being represented. But it’s not just representation. Individuals are corporately the Church — the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5) — whether they are worshiping him in secret or in public. The kingdom of God is advancing because these believers are using their gifts (Romans 12:1-8) and being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-15).

You asked how the Ukrainians might be angry and not sin (Psalm 4:4). They do it like the rest of us. You see, the anger that falls upon every one of us is not a sin. It is an emotion that can lead us to sin. So, if we let our emotions cause us to do an evil act, that is a sin on our part. If we overcome and subdue those impulses, we have not sinned. In fact, it’s just the opposite. We’ve had victory over sin!

Here is why every country in the world — and not just Russia and Ukraine — gets into these kinds of messes once in a while. They all contain countless people who are ignoring God’s revelation (I’ve identified eleven of them), and many are living their lives selfishly or harmfully. So it’s the people who should take the focus in your question, not nations. Here’s an example.

I live in the United States of America which has been traditionally seen as a “Christian” nation. This is not true constitutionally, however. Constitutionally, it is religiously plural. The government cannot institute a religion, and our citizens can believe and practice any religion — or no religion! But by and large, the American people chose Christianity... or at least chose to govern their individual selves by the Judeo-Christian ethic.

You see, no people are worthy of self-governance who do not first govern themselves... and the USA did that pretty well for a few centuries. When godly people pass laws, they affect the nation’s core. That’s part of the story of the USA. It also affected how the USA was seen by other countries. But that was because of the people of the nation... not the nation per se. Not once has every US citizen agreed with every one of its national policies... yet these policies represent the nation.

So, now that I’ve established the difference between the nation and the people of the nation, I need to establish one more important distinction. Our kingdom is not of this world. Let’s look at what Jesus said to Pontius Pilate.

“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:33–36, NIV, emphasis mine).

The above passage teaches two things that are critical to our discussion. First, the kingdom that Jesus is the King of — the one we are citizens of (Ephesians 2:19) — is not of this world. Second, we have no fight here... so I have no problem when a Christian conscientiously objects to its nation’s actions in war on the grounds that the Bible teaches pacifism... or that Jesus confronted people morally, not physically or politically.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Jesus (Mark 12:17), Peter (1 Peter 2:11-17) and the apostle Paul (Romans 13:1-7) all want us to be good citizens of whichever earthly nation holds our citizenship. But for now, all we Christians can have on the earth is dual citizenship. I’m an American, but my primary allegiance is to Jesus Christ. In fact, I am an ambassador in this foreign land (2 Corinthians 5:20). Therefore, my primary concern and overarching objective are to advance God’s kingdom... and I can do this no matter what my nation is doing.

When I do serve God by doing the work that’s in front of me, America tends to prosper too... so there is a relation between the two. But the nation is an incidental recipient of God’s goodness through the conduit of its citizens. God certainly “moves” nations, but nations have no will. People do... so your question can only be answered concerning individuals, not nations.

Now, here is where concepts get a little muddy. God’s kingdom includes all the physical and metaphysical environments that also contain evil. This means that it is coextensive with every nation on the earth. No geography is exclusive or excluded. So, how do we tell which kingdom is which? Let’s look at the relationship between the body and soul in the human being.

We humans are primarily souls... beings who exist with or without physical bodies. This means that our bodies and souls are distinct. Yet, our current experience is that there is a one-to-one relationship between the two. Indeed, our bodies and souls will be inseparable while the body is still alive! So it is counterintuitive to imagine them existing separately.

So it is with the kingdoms of the earth and the kingdom of God. The essence of the kingdom of God is that it is a spiritual kingdom — a kingdom from above. In this, it is like our souls. The nations of the world — including their earthly and political environs — are like our bodies. They are of secondary importance. But if we don’t make wise decisions concerning them, our souls will not function as well as they could.

That’s your answer... as well as I can boil it down. God cares for nations... but only because they are repositories for people... and those collections of people can be “greater than the whole.” These nations develop personalities... and watching nations trying to secure their place in the world is like watching people trying to do the same. So it’s easy to get them confused.

I’m not one of those Christians who gets excited about end-times scenarios. But many do... and Russia is supposed to play a big part in some of the scenarios they envision. Got Questions Ministries has a podcast where the three of its editors discuss this. This did not seem to be what you were looking for in your question, but I want to include it for completion’s sake. Find it at the following link.

https://podcast.gotquestions.org/episode-75.html

I pray all of this helped. God bless you.

 

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20220404 What should Christians do about the Russian invasion of Ukraine? ).

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