One of the darkest areas of our world today is the various conflicts around the world; with Ukraine and Russian and Hamas and Israel being the most acute. Despite this terrible darkness we take hope in the only Light that can dispel it; who is Christ Himself. Jesus, the God-Man, shows Himself in the feast of Theophany to be the 'Light of the world' and can break through the darkness of war. So what are we supposed to do as Christians in light of this reality? How do we make the light of Christ a reality when we are so far and disconnected from these conflicts?
The Christian response to violence in every instance ought to be a prayer that it would end and that no one of God’s precious souls would be harmed. Jesus Himself prophesied there would be wars and rumors of wars. Fallen man has proven Him correct as witnessed by viewing a list of wars on a timeline of history. This should be a source of sadness about the conflict and deep compassion for the victims. Perhaps wars, all of them, should be viewed as the antithesis of goodness, love, and the primal intentions of why God created man. Rather than fighting for the goals and objectives of our sinful pride and greed, we should exert our energy toward living in union and communion with each other and seeking others to join us in that great dance of God’s blessings.
Recognizing the brokenness of mankind does not have to depress. Amazing accomplishments have been realized in spite of our soul’s deep disease. We should always maintain at least a thin ray of hope because God is sovereign and can change peoples’ hearts. This requires that we rid ourselves of a simplistic view of the world, which, in reality, is composed of sinners who can do good as well as those who refuse to do so. We know of many saints who turned their life around from terrible murder and destruction such as St. Moses the Ethiopian.
Christians, while recognizing the reality of war and even the righteous cause of those defending themselves from being attacked, must avoid the simplicity of branding one side as less human than the other or think of one side’s innocents as suffering more than those of the other. We need to always exercise a voice for peace and the end of killing. Offering prayers for peace and reconciliation should be our first thought.
We must keep in mind that when two sides are killing each other, the root of sin always plays a role. That we are each one a sinner should restrict us from jumping to simple conclusions and perhaps even taking sides. Rather than rooting for a particular victor, perhaps we should beseech God to end the conflict first of all. The tragedy of sin takes expression in all warring, whether with guns and missiles or between neighbors or family members. We should approach war with the understanding that the real war is within each of us with our own struggles with passions and pride, the latter of which is the cause of any conflict. Rooting, then, for a victor is complicated by the evil either side is guilty of and may continue to practice while the conflict ensues. Pigeonholing a nation or race can intensify one’s feelings about one side or the other. We must realize often fanatics gain control of an army and start a war that does not represent the bulk of the people. It can be tempting to see one side as wholly good and the other as wholly bad. As with most divorces, there is fault for each party.
History is not only replete with wars and rumors thereof, but any study of history offers that sometimes a despicable evil has to be defeated, such as the Nazi threat of World War II. It was much clearer then than in most cases perhaps that hoping for victory by one side rather than the other was justified. But we must be careful with that kind of justification; often after the fact, one can see more clearly if there was one side that deserved victory over the other. Of course, the simple act of defending one’s country from an outside threat is quite justified. The observer must be careful not to judge too quickly. As history is distilled with time and research, often new facts emerge indicating one must alter one’s view of a given conflict because accurate information was not available earlier on.
Whereas we should eschew killing, we do find cases in the Old Testament where true evil has to be dealt with; completely and totally. 'In various circumstances, every human is both the committer of sin and its victim. For this reason, even when God gives sinful humanity over to the consequences of their sin, they are measured and aimed at repentance and restoration (Rom. 11:32). This process continues until unrepentant evil reaches a point at which tolerating it further would not be mercy for the perpetrator but a failure of mercy for the ongoing victims.' (God is a Man of War by Fr Stephen De Young pg. 40)
Just as we have hope that our Lord, the God of Love, will show His divine mercy to us in saving our precious souls and allowing us into His eternal kingdom, we also have hope that men will realize the futility of killing for killing’s sake and seek peace. That can start with a ceasefire. Perhaps that is the beginning of our prayers regarding the current conflicts in the world. It is especially wrenching for us Orthodox to see news reports of Orthodox Christians and their churches being destroyed.
It is one thing to contemplate the events in the current conflicts; it is another to give of our sustenance as we can. After bombs were dropped in Gaza and residents were made homeless and frightened, St Porphyrios Orthodox Church opened its doors to house, feed and comfort the distressed. Groups offering aid on the ground level are few. However one that looks promising is The Order of St. George (learn more about them on AFM HERE).
As we have been praying collectively together each Sunday, we can continue to pray at home the same prayer to end the conflicts around the world:
Almighty God and Creator, You are the Father of all people on the earth. Guide, we pray, all the nations and their leaders in the ways of justice and peace. Protect us from the evils of injustice, prejudice, exploitation, conflict, and war. Help us to put away mistrust, bitterness, and hatred. Teach us to cease the storing and using of implements of war. Lead us to find peace, respect, and freedom. Unite us in the making and sharing of tools of peace against ignorance, poverty, disease, and oppression. Grant that we may grow in harmony and friendship as brothers and sisters created in Your image, to Your honor and praise. Amen.
Let us pray for peace through peaceful means and positive dialog.
May God help us to have caring hearts toward all victims regardless of which side they are on. Each one is a precious soul in the eyes of God.