How can we respond to the current crisis in Ukraine? Acts 29 Europe has always desired to see healthy churches planted all over our continent, including in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. We’ve visited all of these countries in the past five years, building friendships and seeking mutually enriching gospel collaboration.
We have an Acts 29 church in Chernihiv, not far from the Russian border in the north. Oleksandr Lyakhovyy (Sasha) is the pastor. He took over from Conor McNamee, who led the church plant in its early days. Communication has been spotty with Sasha, but here is a message I received from him this morning: “You can pray for our city. We are located 100 km from the border with Russia. But the troops have already entered our area.”
Can you imagine? How do you pastor a church when your country is being invaded? How do you lead and protect your family? What does the gospel have to say about all of this?
After writing this, I got an update from Conor: “Pastor Sasha left when the tanks and shooting started. He was going to get his family out to safety and return . . . but Sasha might not be able to return soon.”
Let all of that sink in. And then ask yourself, what might your responsibility be?
This is not an idle question for the countries that share a border with Ukraine. Earlier today, we had a call with Tomas Henzel, who leads Acts 29 Central and Eastern Europe, and some other planters in that region. Here is a video from Bohuš, a pastor in an Acts 29 church in Nitra, Slovakia, and his wife, Natalia, who is Ukrainian:
Bearing one another’s burdens is very practical for Bohuš and the church in Nitra. As we heard in the video, it means driving to the border and picking up refugees fleeing war and death. It means putting your children two or three to a bedroom to welcome other children. For Vlad Oara, an Acts 29 pastor in neighbouring Romania, it will mean renting accommodations for them so the mass influx of people won’t have to be housed in overcrowded camps.
In Poland, where Tomek Otremba is pastoring in Cieszyn, they are anticipating between one and three million Ukrainians seeking refuge in the coming months. Already, his denomination is asking how people can help coordinate aid—already, people are signing up to house refugee families.Pastor Sasha left when the tanks and shooting started. He was going to get his family out to safety and return . . . but Sasha might not be able to return soon. Click To Tweet
As I reflect on these things, Revelation 19 comes to mind. In this chapter, we beautifully see the sovereignty of our God, the responsibility of humanity, and the hope of the gospel.
The Sovereignty of God
First of all, God’s absolute, supreme sovereignty. Verse six describes the voice of the great multitude crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” Always. Completely. Nothing in this horrible situation has, can, or will escape God’s sovereign control. This means that, in the end, Vladimir Putin will answer for his crimes. “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just.”
We praise God because he is in control, because he will judge justly and rightly, because no one will get away with anything. The rulers of this earth think they can act with impunity, but God will hold them responsible for all they do. In particular, I think of the ways in which Russia’s military aggression is a dagger in the heart for our Russian brothers and sisters, as their political elite acts and speaks on their behalf in ways they neither desire nor condone.
The responsibility of humanity is seen in the judgment of God on their evil acts. But our responsibility is also to be seen in the good we are to do amid trials and tribulations.
The Responsibility of Humanity
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Rev. 19:6–8)
The righteous deeds of the saints do not save them—that is the result of the finished work of the Lamb who was slain from before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). But they do distinguish the Bride as she makes herself ready for the Groom. We are to be characterized by our righteous deeds as we wait.
For our brothers and sisters in Russia, this will take the form of resistance, of speaking truth to power. For our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, it will undoubtedly take the form of armed resistance at times, as well as the welcoming of refugees and the confounding of the invader’s plans at other times. For those of us outside the immediate conflict, our righteous deeds will be to contribute financially to relief efforts, to welcome refugees, and to pray for and support churches and church leaders in Ukraine like Sasha. For more information on how Acts 29 Europe is assisting churches involved with relief work or to find out how you can support Acts 29 Europe, email us.
The Hope of the Gospel
Ultimately, however, we look beyond these historical events to a time when all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. The marriage of the Lamb is coming!You can pray for our city. We are located 100 km from the border with Russia. But the troops have already entered our area. - Pastor Sasha Click To Tweet
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:9–10)
It will be preceded immediately by the Lamb himself coming back, sitting on a white horse, bearing the name Faithful and True, coming in righteousness to judge and make war. That will be the final reckoning for all, great and small (v. 18).
In the meantime, we look forward with hope. We look forward with anticipation because we are blessed to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. We look forward in worship. And we look forward in the spirit of prophecy—that is to say, in the bold, fearless, and joyful testimony of Jesus. In Acts 29, this particularly means we keep preaching the gospel so churches get planted and people meet Jesus—all over the world, and especially, right now, in Russia and Ukraine.