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Ukraine's Just War

By Pastor Tom Anderson

The Bible takes a very dim view of violence between human beings. It’s not insignificant that the first sin committed outside the Garden of Eden was murder. (Genesis 4:8) Just two chapters later God is deeply grieved because “the earth is filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:8)

Coming at the front of the Bible, these verses indicate how we are to view all of the violence reported in the scriptures. It’s not what God intended. It’s not what God wants for us. It breaks God’s heart. Indeed, the prophets of Israel foresaw the day when violence and war would cease, “God shall judge between the nations...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4) God speed the day!

But we are not there yet. We live in a fallen world where often innocent people are swept up into brutal injustice. One thinks here of the shootings in our schools–who would not want a police force to protect the innocent? One also thinks of Ukraine, brutally invaded by Russian armies seeking to conquer and annex the entire nation. It’s estimated that 354,000 Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have died over the last year. It’s astonishing.

Christian theology from the days of St. Augustine has promoted the concept of Just War. This is the notion that under certain circumstances warfare is necessary to protect the innocent and establish justice. Three tests are applied to any conflict in order to determine if it is just:

  • First, war must be waged by a rightful, sovereign government (see Romans 13:1-7)

  • Second, There must be a just cause. (Psalm 72:4) War must serve the cause of greater justice and protection of the innocent. Fighting about property, trade or cultural domination is precluded.

  • Third, the combatants must have the right intent, to promote the good and avoid evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

So, what does the Ukraine war mean?

It means the easy-breezy pacifism promoted in the West over the last 70 years is as naked as the emperor in his new clothes. We are watching unbridled cruelty being unleashed on an innocent nation. No sane person–let alone a Christian believer–can want the Russian military vision for Europe to succeed.

Bishop Eduard Khegay currently leads the Russian United Methodist Church. He’s declared his intention to join the Global Methodist Church. When asked what it is like to serve the church in such a place, Khegay said, “This war is probably the worst nightmare of my life. People are dying in Ukraine. I'm a Russian citizen and I'm ashamed of this war, but most Russian citizens do support the Russian operation.”

The fierce Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise. They are more enthusiastic about freedom and democracy than many Americans. They love their country, and they want it back. The entire population of Ukraine is fighting the invaders. Who could not empathize with them?

Yet the war is no minor territorial dispute between distant nations. It impinges on the future of Europe. The Swedes and the Finns understand the risks and for the first time in their history have joined NATO.

The Ukrainian people have reminded a decadent and self-absorbed America that there are universal values that are worth fighting and sacrificing for: freedom, democracy, justice, human dignity, the common good, social solidarity, national identity. To my knowledge, no Ukrainian takes a knee when their national anthem is played. They’ve come to discover that the solidarity they have with each other is far more valuable than their separate individual identities. Here’s my prayer for Ukrainian freedom and deliverance from Russian oppression.


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