“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy .’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The eyes of the world are on Ukraine. As I write (2150 GMT, 3rd March 2014), it appears that Russia have issued the an ultimatum to the Ukrainian military. Either they surrender by dawn tomorrow (0300 GMT, 4th March 2014), or the Russians will launch a full assault against the region. The thought of war is always horrifying, but the prospect of worsening relations between Russia and the west should concern us all.
This is not a time for words, however, but a time for prayer. Christian leaders in Crimea have called on the Church to support the region in prayer, and this week has already been declared to be a week of prayer for Ukraine and Crimea. This is doubly important with the tension notching up a gear, hour by hour and minute by minute.
I find the passage above to be particularly helpful. We are reminded that hatred was not something that Jesus condoned. Instead, he called on all his followers to pray for those who persecuted them, to love those who hated them, and to strive for perfect love. Jesus made it clear that God loves all people: “he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” As hard as this may seem, particularly when a peaceful region is threatened with violent assault, it is important that we understand these words and act on Jesus’ commands.
Let’s pray for the people in Ukraine, and particularly Crimea. Let’s pray for Ukrainian leaders, especially the interim President, Olexander Turchynov (a committed Christian and Baptist pastor), and the Ukrainian military. Let’s pray also for Putin, the leaders of Russia and the Russian military. And let’s pray for God’s Spirit of peace to move throughout the region, to bring an end to hostilities and threats of hostilities, and to bring peace to a troubled area of God’s world.