Writer believes situations reveal who people are

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NIV

Imagine a sermon beginning with this text focusing on its meaning for all of humanity. There truly is no greater love in all the world.

In the narrative, Jesus is preparing his band of followers for the inevitable and horrifying journey he will make to die on the cross and become the holy sacrifice for the sins of man. He begins with a metaphor of the vine and branches, detailing how we, the branches, produce the fruit of righteousness if we remain with him, the vine.

Jesus encourages his followers—and we are beneficiaries of this timeless message of redemption—to abide in him, to obey his command, to listen and repent, and adhere to his desire for us to remain in his care.

Sadly, we humans are prone to wander off and do whatever we desire, even without thinking. We are distracted by voices that disrupt our thoughts and decision to follow the Savior; voices like that of the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin. While speaking at a rally with his people, he used this very text from the book of John, suggesting to his citizens who may have family in the armed forces, that they were embarked on a holy mission and were laying down their lives for the cause of rescuing the people of Ukraine from an unseen threat by evil Nazis. Putin’s speech justified the entire war effort based on this verse.

As with all scripture, context matters. It’s not the first time in history that humanity has used scripture to justify actions in direct conflict with God’s laws of love, mercy, grace, redemption and justice. This war begun by Russia’s invasion of a sovereign nation, Ukraine, is the most recent example.

As I write this, images of civilians lying dead in the streets are on my television screen. These scenes are not examples of people caught in an accidental crossfire but are targeted by the Russian military. The deliberate targeting of civilians is an alleged war crime and calls within the global community of nations are increasing for greater intervention in the conflict.

Ukraine villages and metropolitan centers, which only weeks ago were prosperous and energetic as the population went about the business of living normal lives, are now massive zones of destruction and rubble. Thousands of civilians are dead and based on the latest estimates by relief agencies, more than ten million citizens have fled their homes including more than three million leaving their country.

War represents the greatest example of man’s inhumanity to man. War represents man’s greatest violation against God’s command to love one another and live together in peace. How then, do we as a people, as a nation respond to this horrific act?

During one episode of Dr. Phil’s television program, he said, “I don’t think situations create heroes, I think situations reveal who people are.” Today, this is very true. Across this state, I am aware of many examples of people coming together, giving their time, energy and finances to relief efforts of the Ukrainian people. These efforts are repeated nationwide, and though rising inflation and recovery from the pandemic remain a struggle, this is more important here and now.

Globally, Poland’s compassion and generosity and bravery are fully on display as they not only take in the greatest share of refugees, they are making every effort to integrate them, providing food, clothing and shelter to all who come across their borders. Even at great political risk, they offer to send their strategic weapons of aircraft in support of their Ukraine neighbors. They know all too well what it means to live as a free nation, having escaped from the clutches of the old Soviet Russian regime.

Across multiple media platforms, people reveal who they are, and where their loyalties lie. One image displayed on television screens is that of a well-known chef, Jose’ Andrés, opening kitchens in key entry points where refugees pass through and providing more than one million meals, free of charge.

Contrast that with the image of Kansas Senator Roger Marshall handing out Twinkies from a box to food kitchen staff in a poorly managed photo op designed more like a stunt than providing real relief to people fleeing the killing fields in the war. It would have been more useful if the Senator had arranged for the shipment of a truck or shipload of food supplies via a relief agency. And never mind the fact that he was not only critical of Biden providing critical military and humanitarian aid for them, he also voted against the $13.6 billion appropriation bill to fund it.

Contrast even that with reports of volunteers risking their own lives to care for more than 800 babies born and awaiting adoption while stranded in a building and subjected to constant bombardment in the vicinity.

Contrast that to images of fleeing refugees, though the Russians promised safe passage via “safe corridors,” are then shot, strafed, wounded or killed by soldiers of the invading army.

Situations do reveal who people are. They choose to follow one path or the other. And no matter how intentioned it is, quoting scripture is not a sign of Godly endorsement of despicable behavior.

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