I struggle to reconcile Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 with my desire to see Vladimir Putin and his minions annihilated. The Gospel text states: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Two questions come to mind:
- What does love look like when war is raging?
- What do we need to pray for when bullets are flying?
I have spent a considerable amount of time pondering these questions. Obviously, there is much more to be included in this conversation than I’ll mention in this post.
First, what does love look like when war is raging? It looks like sacrifices.
I believe it was George Buttrick who wrote, “The deepest level of love always requires sacrifice.” Always.
And the greater the threat, the more important sacrifices become.
At all times, love is willing to do the difficult. It will rise to every challenge and meet it head on.
Love will not let you take the easy way. It will not let you ignore injustice and the pain it inflicts on innocent victims. It will not let you grow indifferent and callous, allowing evil to go unchallenged.
Love will not allow you to walk away when others need you. It will not give you a pass when so much is at stake. It will refuse to let selfishness rule your heart and mind.
Instead, love compels you to act boldly, courageously and sacrificially to stamp out evil and hold evildoers accountable. There are no exceptions, especially in the pursuit of truth, justice and peace.
With this in mind, what sacrifices are you willing to make in the days to come to help the people of Ukraine?
Recently, I have heard people express feelings of helplessness in the face of this global crisis. What could they possibly do from so far away to confront and to stop Putin from waging war on a sovereign nation?
In many ways you and I are helpless. We do not hold positions of authority or have access to information needed to make wise decisions.
But we are not completely helpless. We can join with millions of others around the world who are saying they will make sacrifices in their daily lives so that tyrants do not get what they want. They are willing to pay a price to keep power-hungry leaders like Putin from wreaking havoc on innocent people.
“We all have a role to play in this global crisis, regardless of where we live. What is yours?”
What sacrifices are you willing to make to make hope visible? What are you willing to live without so others can live? What are you willing to do so evil doesn’t triumph?
We all have a role to play in this global crisis, regardless of where we live. What is yours? Are you willing to make sacrifices on behalf of the Ukrainian people who are engaged in a fight for their lives?
Before you answer, remember the deepest level of love always requires sacrifice. I hope your decision indicates you have reached that level.
I hope your prayer life does, too.
When bullets are flying in Ukraine, it is not enough to pray for their citizens, the world’s leaders, peacemakers working behind the scenes, those on the battle front, those who have been injured, those who are grieving the loss of loved ones and refugees who have been displaced.
It is also our duty to pray for our enemies.
This never has been easy for me, especially now. The sight of Vladimir Putin on television spikes my blood pressure. I can hardly look at him. I find nothing about him admirable or honorable.
“The sight of Vladimir Putin on television spikes my blood pressure. I can hardly look at him. … So why do I pray for this man?”
So why do I pray for this man?
I trust Jesus. He would never ask me to do anything that is futile.
I don’t have to know how God works in another person’s life before praying for them. I ask God to melt their heart, to open their eyes and to show them a better way, and then I leave the rest to God.
I pray for God to bring someone into their life who can be a positive influence, offering an alternative voice and vision.
I’ve seen God do this in the lives of people in the communities where I have lived. I believe God can do this on a global scale, too.
So, I pray for our enemies.
I also pray for rogue leaders because I don’t want to have a hate-filled heart and a vindictive spirit. I know how destructive they are, and I refuse to harbor those counter-productive feelings that will poison my attitude, contaminate my relationships and put me in a prison without bars.
So, I pray for our enemies.
I encourage you to trust Jesus and pray for them, too.
Bob Browning is a retired Baptist pastor who lives in Frankfort, Ky.
Meditation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine | Opinion by Ken Sehested