Christian in-fighting in Ukraine a travesty

By March 5, 2014
MNN's Greg Yoder in Red Square in February 2014. He shares this commentary on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.
MNN's Greg Yoder in Red Square in February 2014. He shares this commentary on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

MNN’s Greg Yoder in Red Square in February 2014. He shares this commentary on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine (MNN) — MNN’s Greg Yoder shares this commentary on the Russia/Ukraine conflict:

It has been a long time since I’ve included a commentary on Mission Network News, but today I’m doing it. The topic isn’t pretty. It’s divisive. It’s hurtful. It’s not what Christians should be doing. And yet, because of our humanness, Christians fall into the same everyday political discourse that everyone else is facing today. The Ukraine/Russia conflict is causing a serious division among Christian believers in and out of Russia and Ukraine.

The conflict is this: Some evangelicals say the Ukrainian government was corrupt and needed to resign. They believe the Ukrainian-elected parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office. The interim government is in place awaiting national elections in May. Many Russian Christians believe Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine and Russia is acting on his behalf and on behalf of the safety of Russians in Crimea.

Those lines have also been drawn by Russian and Ukrainian believers, but with a twist. They’re starting to attack each other. One organization’s Facebook page was laced with verbal volleys from influential Russian/Ukrainian Christian leaders and pastors.

One wrote: “There is more aggression of the West against us here in the East. It is sad to see how you build a parallel between your personal political views and theology/Bible. It is not the same. Let us not be fooled by the politicians.”

These barbs keep growing. Some accuse Christians of being too actively involved in the political situation. Other Christians suggest believers NEED to be involved in the political situation so they can influence decisions made on their behalf. So, it’s not only Russian Christians opposing Ukrainian Christians; sometimes it’s Russian against Russian and Ukrainian against Ukrainian.

This crisis could have serious repercussions for the world both politically and spiritually. How?

Let’s talk about the political side first. Ukraine is wrestling with a new government that has basically divided the country. The pro-Ukraine side appears to outnumber the pro-Russia side. Unfortunately, that divide could cause the country to lose a portion of a treasured region: Crimea. This pro-Russian mindset may be the spark of succession. Ukraine is mobilizing troops to try and defend its sovereignty, but they don’t stand a chance. They lack numbers and resources.

That leads to other questions: If Ukraine attempts to defend itself, will it ask for help from the United States and he European Union? If those nations respond, will China get involved? If the United States assists Ukraine, what will that mean for the future of USA/Russian relations?

If the United States and the EU are asked to help and they don’t, what kind of message is that sending to the rest of the world? Is it a sign of weakness? Is it a sign of disinterest? Will Ukraine ultimately fall into Russian hands, creating another Soviet-like state? If the U.S. doesn’t respond, will this be the end of U.S. Influence in the region?

On the spiritual side, the crisis in Ukraine is creating an uncertainty that this generation in Ukraine hasn’t seen before. Openness to the Gospel has never been better. Russia has a similar openness, which I witnessed while I was in Russia during the Winter Olympics.

Will the strained relations between Russia and the U.S. prevent American Christians from being able to go to Russia to help people understand the Gospel? Will short-term mission trips to socially-needy parts of the country end? Will anti-American sentiments in Russia get even worse, making travel there dangerous?

These are all questions that have no answers. Because there are so many questions, we MUST pray. Don’t just pray for the country, pray specifically for the following:

1. Pray that Russia will leave Crimea and that peace would be restored to a sovereign nation.

2. Pray that the newly-appointed Ukrainian government will be given wisdom from God to be able to handle this difficult situation.

3. Pray that God would use this uncertainty to help Christians share the certainty that can only come though the Gospel.

4. Pray that the EU and the USA would be used by God to help the situation end in peace.

5. Pray that each nation’s leadership would be given divine inspiration on what they should do to fulfill God’s plan.

6. Pray that God would use this crisis to lead entire cities and communities to Christ.

7. Pray that planned ministries would be allowed to move forward despite the uncertainty.

8. Pray that Christians would be unified behind one thing: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mission Network News will continue to cover the unfolding situation in Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula.

9 Comments

  • I think you meant:
    This Pro-Russian mindset may be the spark of secession.

  • Sas Conradie says:

    Dear Greg

    Thank you very much for this excellent analysis and reflection. I believe we need to pray that Russian and Ukrainian Christian leaders set aside their differences and perceived different understanding of the situation in Ukraine to show how the Gospel unifies the Body of Christ in a conflict situation. This will be a tremendous witness to the rest of the world. However, I believe it will need humility and forgiveness from both sides. The Russian leaders need to respect the leadership and even regional leadership of Ukrainian Christians. I was shocked last year when one of the most important Russian evangelical leaders complained that a Ukrainian is the Lausanne Movement’s International Deputy Director for Eurasia. The Russian leader said that Russia is the regional power in Eurasia. Therefore a Russian Christian should be the Eurasian leader of an evangelical movement such as Lausanne as well. This ‘controlling’ spirit by leaders runs very deep in Russian society and Christians. We experienced that when we were missionaries in Crimea.

    On the other side, few of us can imagine what the Ukrainian nation went through in the 20th century at the hands of the Soviets whom they view as in essence a form of Russian empire (even though many Soviet leaders such as Khrushchev were Ukrainian). The Holodomor (Ukrainian famine) between 1932 and 1933 is one of the most horrific events I read about. It is therefore understandable that Ukrainians (and Ukrainian Christians) are afraid of being controlled by Russians. I am not sure whether Russian Christians have ever asked Ukrainians forgiveness for what happened during Soviet times in Ukraine.

    I also think that we can forget what the original protests in Kiev were about. I am hearing from my Ukrainian friends that it was not about siding with Europe against Russia. It was a revolt against corruption and autocratic leadership. This is also my impression as I followed the news about events in Ukraine. We must be careful to turn the protests now into some kind of ethnic conflict between Russians and Ukrainians. This is exactly what the Ukrainian nationalists want but my impression is that for the vast majority of Ukrainians it is about freedom of corruption and corrupt autocratic politics. As such there is a lesson also for Russian Christians who are living in one of the most corrupt states in the world.

    I believe forgiveness, repentance and unity between Russian and Ukrainian Christians might be important in the present context. We saw that in 1999 when we organised a Global Day of Prayer for the Crimean Tatars to deal with the spiritual issues related to the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944. Russian and Crimean Tatar leaders confessed the sins of the past to each other and forgave each other. Afterwards we saw a remarkable spiritual openness among the Crimean Tatars, Russians and Ukrainians. God also provided peace when every indication was that conflict would break out between the Crimean Tatars and Russians. God can do this again.

    Just finally, here is a link to a call for prayer for Crimea in particular http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/resources/detail/13481#.UxcpOfl_vuI.

    Sorry for this long comment!

    Kind regards

    Sas Conradie
    (Past missionary to Crimea, now living in the UK)

  • It call comes down to putting the gospel of Jesus Christ first. Why in the world is it SO HARD to put aside race/ nationality/ethnicity and just get on the mind of Christ?? Praying with you.

  • Jane Tuls says:

    Thank you for posting this, Greg. It is very informative. I also appreciated Sas Conradie’s comments. The more informed I am, the better I can pray for God’s intervention.

  • Kirk says:

    thanks, Greg, for your analysis of this, and also you, Sas, for your very insightful reply to the situation. Much humility and grace is certainly key in this situation, with a “love that covers a multitude of sins…”
    (I Peter 4:8). It would greatly open up hearts if Russian and Ukrainian evangelical leaders could come together, fast & pray, and ask forgiveness of each other.

    Kirk

  • Mark Munger says:

    Greg, I must admit ignorance as far as what is or is not the correct path to take in the current crisis. I do believe that for too long we have believed that Christians must always side together on political, social, or economic issues. I’m sure there are Godly people on both sides that are trying to be true to their conscience. It must be like the Revolutionary War where I’m sure that believers thought we should remain loyal to England and others felt just as strongly that seperation was the answer.

    Jesus said that people would recognize us as Christians by our love for each other. Whether in the Ukraine or here in America in our current political discourse I think we as Christians have a long way to go on voicing our opinions on social media or face to face and yet doing it in a spirit of love.

    Good article, Thanks

  • Thanks for the commentary and article. I resonate with #8. No matter the government, Christians should stand together as members of the body of Christ–and the family of God. Nations come and go, but the people of God will endure. Prayers.

  • Linda Rhyne says:

    Thank you, Sas for your input. I will be praying

  • Linda says:

    The two greatest commands according to Jesus are love
    God and love your neighbor as yourself. To be a true Christian one CAN
    NOtT murder their neighbor. Especially if of the same faith, what hypocrisy!

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