As God’s people watch the developing situation in Ukraine, Christians have an opportunity to offer a faithful witness to a broken world.
Speculation that the Russian invasion could lead to World War III has already started to surface. President Vladimir Putin’s seeming willingness to use Russia’s nuclear arsenal is extremely troubling, only adding to worldwide tensions. At this moment, an escalation of the Ukraine conflict feels inevitable.
In addition, many in the U.S. are still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic and the various measures taken in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Trust in institutions and systems like the establishment media is waning, with alternative news sources growing in their influence. Inflation and the economy are becoming an increasing concern facing citizens.
There are fissures forming in many of the structures we normally depend on for security. Life is less sure than it used to be in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It’s easy to look out on the landscape of the U.S. and wonder how, when or if the problems facing the nation will be resolved.
Yet, amid the very real challenges facing Ukraine, the U.S. and countries around the world, Christians have an opportunity to witness to those who don’t know God. Unlike James Bond’s martinis, which are “shaken, not stirred,” Christians are stirred, not shaken. We are not callous to the difficulties facing humanity, nor are we so focused on spiritual things that we neglect the concrete, physical realities that demand attention.
Practicing pure and undefiled religion demands not only that Christians remain “unstained by the world” but that we “visit orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). We can practice this sort of religion because we are not dependent on the systems and structures of the world, but have received “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
Christians feel the pains of war, economic collapse and breakdowns of political systems. Yet we are “a stone amid the waves; wet, yet unimpressed by all that swirls” around us (Pierce Brown, “Golden Son“). In other words, we remain in the fray knowing that our security is in Christ.
No matter how “wet” we may get, the storms of this life do not threaten our union with Christ, nor do they dampen our resolve to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). We are not shaken.
We are, however, stirred. Christians are to be a passionate and compassionate people. If “all the law and the prophets” depend on the commands to love God with all we are and have and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40), Christians must be stirred to action.
Our surety in Christ is not an excuse to detach ourselves from the world. Rather, knowing Christ gives us the confidence and the wisdom to follow rather than fix. God does not call us to repair a broken world, but to offer a faithful witness within it by moving toward the sort of brokenness others might see as disturbing, disgusting, inconvenient or beneath their station (Luke 10:25-37). We are stirred to follow God into difficult situations and to open ourselves up for his use.
As a people stirred but not shaken, we must commit to being a visible presence in the world. To do so does not mean setting aside our private practices of prayer, study, fasting and giving. Our individual and collective practices are crucial to the development of a character sufficient to openly and faithfully proclaim Christ in the public sphere.
Our visibility in the world is not optional because, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, “to flee into invisibility is to deny the call. Any community of Jesus which wants to be invisible is no longer a community that follows him” (Bonhoeffer, “Discipleship“).
Our visible presence in the world cannot be characterized by panic or anxiety, but by the fruits of the Spirit which are “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). We are surely in the world to offer physical care and to pursue justice (cf. Isaiah 1:17), yet we do so knowing that we will “always have the poor” with us (Matthew 26:11).
Eliminating all brokenness from the world is not the church’s calling. Instead, our calling is to live holy, godly lives that together with our words proclaim the good news of Christ as we wait for and hasten the restoration of all things (2 Peter 3:11-12).
We are stirred, not shaken. We do not depend on the systems and structures of the world. Our hope is in Christ.
So, as we continue to watch the Russian invasion of Ukraine, experience economic and political uncertainties, and navigate a media environment that is becoming increasingly adept at telling stories that deny God, we are stirred to proclaim Christ in word and deed.
We are stirred to show the world what is possible for a people saved by grace through faith and empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk differently because God walks with us.
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