In one scriptural example that offers a reference point for our chaotic world, 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NIV) tells us of men of Issachar “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command.” At a chaotic time in Israel’s history after the death of King Saul, thousands of warriors from the various tribes threw their support behind David to crown him king over Israel. The description of the warriors from Issachar supplies great counsel for us today as we consider our response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It's not surprising that President Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has met with worldwide disapproval and condemnation, even from within Russia itself. His initial promise to bomb only military targets quickly proved false as his attacks have already taken the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians. Of course, the people of Ukraine are terrorized and afraid, especially in large cities like Kiev. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are desperately seeking the safety of Western European neighbors.
Spurred on by the brave leadership of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, most of the population has decided to remain and fight for their lives. Both military members and civilians are willing to sacrifice everything to preserve a free and democratic Ukraine.
Beyond the borders of Ukraine, European countries are responding collectively. For the first time in 40 years, NATO seems to have awakened to the sinister aims of Russia’s president. Members of the alliance are finally recognizing that if Russia succeeds in taking control of Ukraine, Eastern European countries could quickly become “close in” targets as part of Putin’s dream for world dominance. Additionally, given Europe’s dependence upon Russia for petroleum products, natural gas, and food, they’re also waking up to the fact that Russia’s aggression will adversely impact economic stability beyond the region, even throughout the world.
The United States also stands to lose. Many Americans are fearful: for the predicted negative impact upon our economy in the near term and for our national security in the coming years. Leaders at the Pentagon have said that they don’t know what Putin’s aspirations or next steps might be. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine already seems to have weakened U.S. standing on the world stage. The White House appears oblivious to the negative impacts of its present domestic policies. The State of the Union Address did nothing to reassure me. Finally, our nation is presently home to over a million Ukrainians who are deeply troubled by dangers imposed on family and friends back in their homeland.
I am convinced Russia’s invasion will have devasting effects for Russia, even if it succeeds in Ukraine. Starting with NATO, European members along with much of the rest of the world are seeing Putin for the evil tyrant he is. Putin will pay, and so will Russia. President Zelenskyy has established himself as a hero with the leadership capabilities to inspire not only Ukrainians, but lovers of freedom around the world. Though China has sided with Russia, the second- and third-order effects of the Ukrainian invasion should cause China to rethink taking control of Taiwan anytime soon.
AS CHRISTIANS, WHAT CAN WE DO?
On the heels of 9/11, an Army general came to address a class of West Point cadets. My family and I were stationed at the Academy, and I happened to attend the lecture. The general officer, a former West Pointer, understood his audience. Most cadets were chomping at the bit to finish their time at West Point and get out into the active Army and contribute to the fight against terror.
Knowing what his audience was thinking and how helpless many were feeling by simply attending classes, the general made a most timely statement: “Your geographical proximity to the battlefield in no way limits your impact on the fight.”
The general was making the point that it takes teamwork to win a war. Everyone has an important part, and it’s critical that each part functions effectively. Not everyone fights at the tip of the spear. If those called to support front-line warriors don’t do their jobs, the mission fails. I panned the audience following those words and saw that most cadets were reassured that their role was to finish school—not resign from West Point and immediately enlist in the Army to go fight. I know a good number of those cadets who were present that day. More than 20 years later, some of them will soon be general officers themselves, while many others are serving in important leadership capacities. They understood their role in 2001 was to prepare for the service they have since rendered our nation.
In a spiritual sense, doesn’t this parallel the Apostle Paul’s writing in First Corinthians 12? Paul explained that the body of Christ has many members with different roles and giftings. He says this in verse 7: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
Your response to the invasion of Ukraine? Here’s a list of actions you might take. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a start.
• Pray (1 Timothy 2:1-7) — The real enemy is not Russia, but spiritual wickedness in high places. Pray for the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia. Pray for President Putin to come to his senses. Pray for our leaders in America, beginning with President Biden and members of Congress. Pray for our military and their families. Pray that God will use this situation to open more hearts to hear the gospel message.
• Trust our Sovereign God, read His Word, and do what it tells us to do. He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
• Act in ways that unify, not divide. Start with the way you think (Philippians 4:8). Thoughts drive behavior. Begin in your home, your neighborhood, your work, and your community.
• Offer your perspective to young people about godly ways to respond to the present invasion of Ukraine. Start with your own children. Speak words of loving counsel to every young person within your circle of influence.
• Study what’s going on in your community, your state, our nation, and the world. Don’t limit your search to only those sources that echo what you already believe. Try to understand what folks with opposing views are saying. If we don’t listen and understand what they’re saying, do we really have the right to disagree?
• Participate in our democratic republic. Vote. Get involved in supporting party platforms that you believe will make America a better country. No person or platform is perfect, but prayerfully seek to identify those that will bring better solutions.
• Continue to make it your life goal to daily become more like Christ. Helping others is a good step in the right direction.
The Ukraine crisis is only one large-scale reminder of how fragile our world is, and that humanity is in the midst of an ongoing spiritual war. It may seem that nations, world leaders, politicians, militaries, and giant corporations control the future. They don’t, and they never will. God is solidly in charge. As people of God, let us order our lives in line with His plans.
“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30-31, NIV).