The Russia-Ukraine war has gone on for a month. Many of us have felt devastation as we read of the massive destruction and unnecessary deaths. Some of us tune out because it is too much to bear. As Christians, what is the appropriate response to such world crises?
Just this past week, the economic toll of the war in Ukraine hit me in my stomach. For the longest time, the youtiao stall at the hawker centre near my home sold a stick for $0.80. I think it was just before the pandemic that the price rose to $0.90. But when I went to buy a stick last Tuesday, it was $1.10. That’s a 20% jump in price. But youtiao is comfort food, so maybe I’ll have to learn to just savour it less often. However, my disappointment pales in comparison with what the Ukrainians are suffering. It is cause for renewed gratitude to God that we live in peace and security here in Singapore.
The war has gone on for a month already. We read of the massive destruction of homes and cities and unnecessary deaths of many due to the conflict. I’m sure for many of today’s younger people who are coming into consciousness of world events, this is a challenging time. This is especially so since we have been facing a real existential threat to life and livelihoods with the pandemic.
Recently, I came across the article “How to Talk to Kids About the War in Ukraine” by Justin Whitmel Earley, and although it is aimed at speaking with children about the war, I feel it is instructive even for adults. I would like to share his seven points for our reflection.
1. Peace is not the norm; it’s the exception.
An important lesson of the Bible — and history — is that peace is rare. God is not surprised when nations rage (Acts 4:25; cf. Ps. 2). We shouldn’t be, either. Though made in God’s image, all persons are fallen and capable of horrific evil. Progress and time don’t change this; leaders are as corrupt, power-hungry and violent as ever. We would do well to remember this in times of relative peace.
2. But peace is worth fighting for!
I ask my boys over and over, “When is the only time you’re allowed to fight someone?” They answer, “When you’re protecting someone else.” Yes, we’re fallen, but we were made for peace. That’s the image of God in us, and it’s worth fighting for. In fact, it’s the only reason we should fight. Because God loves and protects the innocent (Deut. 19:10), we are not passive in the face of inevitable evil — instead, we must be faithful.
3. Evil is real, but we don’t fear.
“This is bad, but you don’t need to be afraid,” I told my sons. Our response to evil should be bravery, not surprise. We can be uniquely brave because we know Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). The serious Christian need not fear death and suffering. When faced with evil, we are free to do what is right, not only what is safe. Use world crises to remind kids that the Christian posture in the face of evil is courage rather than cowardice. There’s no shortage of these opportunities.
4. It’s good and right to lament violence.
Fear is not the right response, but sadness is. Indeed, lament is necessary, for violence is always worth mourning. It’s not right that evil people are in power. It’s not good that the poor are trampled and the innocent die. And it’s not merely acceptable to say this to God — it’s essential for our hearts that we do (see Ps. 73, for example). It’s also important to let our kids see us lament. We must allow them to see us broken over evil and suffering, so they know there’s another way than callous acceptance of it. We can weep over evil and be brave at the same time. In fact, sometimes it’s the bravest thing to do.
5. Take heart — God is just.
Talking about judgment is not popular. But that’s mostly because we don’t understand evil. Many times when evil rears its head, we want a strong man to come and make it all right. Well, there is one coming, and his name is Jesus. He will judge the world. (This is what makes the good news of Jesus so beautiful — we who deserve judgment are forgiven!) But remind yourself, and your kids, that God hears innocent blood crying from the ground (Gen. 4:10). He will not let it go unpunished. Good may not win in our lifetime, but good will prevail in the end. So take heart.
6. We must pray.
One of the most radical Christian acts in the face of evil is to pray. The prayers need not be complicated. Simple yelps for mercy suffice. Deliver the Ukrainians. Make them brave. Make us brave, too. Bring your judgment. Let good prevail. Lord, have mercy. Hold us fast. Give peace. Those who wear the armour of God are “praying always” (Eph. 6:18). My main point in talking to my sons was “When you lie down tonight, pray for them. Do it tomorrow, too.” Prayer is what Christians do, and the world needs it.
7. We must play.
Yes, play. This too is an act of courage in the face of evil. Remember, this conversation is for older kids — but even older kids are still kids! One of the best gifts you can give them is the biblical truth that the world, in the end, is going to be okay (John 16:33). And few things embody gospel hope more than play. Think of play as a liturgy against evil. Don’t get lost in the headlines. Don’t lose your presence at home. Don’t tune out. Don’t walk around angry or scared or perpetually on edge. Parents are the guardians, holding back the onslaught of all the world’s darkness so the living room can become a place of imagination and play. Be brave — get down on the carpet and play!
So, go ahead and be a parent. Hard times are when our kids need us most. God’s grace is with you, Mum or Dad. Pray, and then get after it.
May these seven points grant us a biblical perspective in dealing with the conflict happening in Ukraine even as we carry on with our daily lives in Singapore. We thank God that as part of BPCIS, we were able to give $10,000 to the relief efforts in Ukraine through OM Singapore. Let us pray that the intended negotiation talks between Russia and Ukraine happen soon and that they will lead to a cessation of war.
— Pastor Daniel Tan