If anyone has exposed the human condition more incisively and pungently than Blaise Pascal, I have yet to read him or her. At present we live with the drums of […]
If anyone has exposed the human condition more incisively and pungently than Blaise Pascal, I have yet to read him or her. At present we live with the drums of war being sounded. We could well ask with Pascal: ‘Could there be anything more absurd than that a man has the right to kill me because he loves on the other side of the water, and his prince has picked a quarrel with mine, though I have none with him?’
War has always been on the horizon of every society at every time. In the middle of the third century, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, lamented: ‘The whole world is wet with mutual blood; and murder, which in the case of an individual is admitted to be a crime, is called a virtue when it is committed wholesale.’ Augustine repeated the story of the captured pirate who told Alexander the Great that they were not really very different – Alexander was just a gangster on a larger scale.
People can wring their hands, or hope for the best, or sign petitions, or go back to watching Married at First Sight. H. G. Wells famously called World War I ‘The War That Will End War.’ Such naivety will never contribute to peace. Machiavelli at least knew how the world operates. Take sin seriously, and take God seriously.
Christians anywhere must look on war with grief and sorrow, and a deep sense of our own weakness. More so for Christians in Russia and Ukraine. We can unite, without knowing much about one another, in a number of ways:
1. We prize peace. When Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peacemaker’ (Matt.5:9), He was not prophesying the existence of delegates to the United Nations. Rather, He was saying that His disciples as those who are at peace with God (Rom.5:1; Col.1:20) know a peace in Christ which the world does not and cannot know (John 16:33). This leads to peace between His people (Eph.2:14), and a desire for peace with all and sundry, even those who are difficult types (Rom.12:18). War is like the breakdown in human relationships which we see locally, only extended across the nations. That is why John Lennon’s cry to ‘Give peace a chance’ sounds very hollow, given his destructive infidelities.
2. Recognise that God is behind all calamities. War is no doubt of the devil, but God is sovereign and behind every bomb that falls (Isa.45:7; Lam.3:38; Amos 3:6). Those who want a quick peace so that we can return to the Mardi Gras as soon as possible have no idea of why we are as we are. The Ukrainians are not the worst of sinners at all (Luke 13:1-5), but God is chastening us all. We are to pray, to be courageous, and not to panic. Let us lift up our hearts to the Lord. It may look like we are caught between catastrophe and cataclysm, but God is still on His throne.
3. Renew our trust in the Lord of heaven and earth. ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses [read ‘tanks}, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God’ (Ps.20:7). There is good reason to fear, but the more crucial question is ‘whom do we fear most?’ Hear God’s Word: ‘The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe’ (Prov.29:25). Christians do not know the outcome of any particular battle but they do know the outcome of the war. Not Putin, not Premier Li, not Parliament House, not the Human Rights Commission, not the leader of the so-called free world, not anyone – Christ will share His victory with no other except His blood-bought people. Rest in Him who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt.28:18).
With warm regards in Christ,
Rev. Dr Peter Barnes, Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia