The invasion of Ukraine is sadly the media moment. What is it about? Who says the answer? It is not the only conflict happening in the world. I am unsure how many people are aware of the conflict in Yemen – now in its 8th year – and I’m not even sure how to describe it – ‘war’, ‘civil war’, ‘proxy war’ (fought by countries on another country’s soil). Whatever is happening in Ukraine or Yemen or has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Bosnia, and other places we have learnt from experience – and also from history – that both ‘sides’ claim legitimacy for their actions whether they attack (to defend against a great evil or injustice) or defend (against the attack). This is important because we are not talking about getting an historical score card right but about what people are doing – what they are actually doing on a given day in the conflict.
I think most people want to do what is ‘right’. I think few people want to do ‘wrong’ things – or be in the wrong. Conflict very much has a starting point that each side believes themselves to be right – doing the right thing in that moment or situation. Should anyone start wondering, ‘Are we the baddies?’ then they can be accused of disloyalty but the question reminds us that we are all responsible for our behaviour – what we actually do. The Christian Church recognises conscience objection or resistance precisely because options can sometimes only be choices between ‘bad’ options and then one should follow one’s conscience as guided by Jesus and his Word. While this world is not our home, Jesus has placed us into relationships – family, livelihood, citizenship, church – and Jesus calls us to serve there which means we shouldn’t abrogate our responsibilities and so we have to make choices about what we do; how we behave.
Lutheran theology calls these worldly relationships ‘vocation’. They are our callings where we are to stand. They reflect our responsibilities. Should I stay or flee the plague? Versions of this question have shaped our living these past two years with C-19. How am I to serve those around me? That depends on who ‘I’ am. Should I stay or flee an invading army? Who are you? That is the question to ask to begin that answer. If you are a soldier, you already have an answer. If you are a civilian, then you will have to ask other questions about your situation. However if everyone fights who will bake the bread?
The Bible recognises one’s context as a determinant in how one is faithful to God. Such contexts included age, pregnancy, whether single or married – and if married for how long, power, wealth. The goal was always to follow God and do good – or as the prophet Micah described it – “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NRSV). That our world is full of bad, injustice, lies, and pride is incontrovertible. It is hard finding our way. To whom shall we turn? Our leaders? Our tribe (especially social media ones)? To the one we think will win? The answer has to be about truth. Yes, we have a responsibility to know worldly truth (and it is increasingly hard these days but then the messages have always been manipulated).
For Christians, the starting point is Jesus – the way, the truth, and the life. If he isn’t true, stop reading now! You are wasting your time – go and find truth elsewhere. But that Jesus is true means he is the source, foundation, and centre of our life – he gives us our identity so that we – each of us in our unique position in this world – can live with meaning and purpose and Jesus guides us in how we behave each day. Jesus reframes ‘being a baddie’ and forgives us so that we will never knowingly seek to harm or do wrong to others. And he is with us in the struggle to follow him each day. GS