Responding to a crisis

The crisis in Ukraine is dominating the news at present. In recent years we have had the Covid pandemic and wars in Syria and Yemen take centre stage in the news outlets, or the mass exodus of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to name but a few disasters. After a few weeks or months the crisis fades from the news, but not so quickly on the ground.  How do we respond as Christians?

Our first calling as Christians is to love people and that means acting to help. But how can we help best? I suggest there are three things we can all do, wherever we live. This might be a bit forced but we can call them three Ps! - Pray, Practice generosity and keep Perspective.


Others might think praying is not really helping or even that it is selfish and focused on ourselves, but as Christians we know that when we cry out to God we are actually doing more than anyone to help on the ground!

It is not true that “prayer changes things” but God changes things in response to our prayers! We do not understand why, but He has limited Himself so that His Kingdom comes not just by His actions but in response to our heart attitudes and our prayers.

But how do we pray in the face of such evil as war, where people on all sides and none are killed and maimed, or starved and displaced?

We find help from God in the Word and the Spirit.

The Spirit inspires our praying. In Romans 8:26-7 Paul writes, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

When we are filled with the Spirit and ask for help in praying, the Spirit will inspire our words and even our groans or silent waiting. Also, the Spirit will inspire our weeping, because lament and weeping are part of our praying.
A friend recently said all they could do was weep every time they thought about the situation in Ukraine. Was there something wrong with them? Absolutely not! We are created with emotions as well as minds, with subconscious as well as conscious thoughts, with a spirit able to hear and communicate with God’s Spirit when we are brought to life spiritually in Christ. Unlike God we also have bodies, and all the aspects of our being interact and affect each other. We need to live as whole people. So weeping is not just valid, it is an important part of intercessory prayer.
The scriptures inspire creative ideas as well as giving us model prayers. In Matthew 6 Jesus gave an outline, including “May your Kingdom come and your will be done …”. There are many prayers in the epistles and they help keep our focus on the true perspective rather than our own small concerns.
Scripture also gives us a vocabulary for prayer. The psalms in particular give us ways of praying when things are going well (eg Psalm 18) or badly (eg Psalm 38) or when we are finding a way back to God and seeing with His perspective (eg Psalm 73). The whole range of emotions is there in the psalms.

Often we read scripture in a devotional way and expect the verses to speak “to me” and it is good to take hold of the truth of scripture for ourselves. But in fact there is much more.  The psalms are written for others too! Even if I am not suffering like the psalmist writing Psalms 39, 88 or 109 I can pray from those and other psalms for people who are crushed, starving, abused or suicidal, displaced refugees or anyone mourning the loss of a loved one.

Practise generosity

We have received endless grace from God, who is the ultimate Giver, and if we ask the Spirit to fill us with His love we too can give wholeheartedly. Let’s ask for wisdom so we are led by the Spirit not just by emotion. We need to be responsible about other commitments and give to reliable channels. Let’s ask for inspiration too, because God will inspire different people to give different amounts, and if we all respond to the Spirit God will supply through His people what is needed in different areas and for different needs.
So whatever we do, let’s pray first and give generously, inspired by the love that comes from God!

Keep perspective

It is easy to be swayed by what we hear or see in the news or other people’s expectations or assumptions. We are all shaped by the worldview of our family and friends, but when we are born from the Holy Spirit we are open to heavenly perspectives that will often challenge our worldview. In any culture or worldview there are aspects that are good and wholesome and God loves the diversity! Yet there are also things that are unhealthy or opposed to the self-giving love that characterises the Kingdom of God.

In the Western worldview I have inherited from my background, one seriously unhealthy assumption is that the way to deal with what is wrong is to use force to change it - that leads to real problems when people have different ideas about what is wrong! Another is the assumption that we are individuals first and members of a community second. Rather we are primarily part of God’s family. The importance of community is based in the theology of the Trinity: there is one God but eternally existing in three Persons, and if there were no eternal, divine community love could not be the prime characteristic of God!

There are three dangers we face in particular as we respond to a crisis, three temptations to react from our worldview instead of responding in the Spirit.

First is the danger of joining in with popular causes that are in the headlines for the moment and missing issues and people that are also on God’s heart and that He wants to put on our hearts too.

Second is the danger of joining in with political assumptions of the world around us. Most people divide the world into “us and them” so some countries or people groups are by definition Good or Bad. For example, it is easy to see Ukraine as good because attacked and Russia as bad because it has been the main enemy of the West for much of the last hundred years. But this ignores the fear of invasion that Russians have felt ever since the Mongol conquest in the 13th Century - it is part of the Russian worldview that they are in danger of being victims of aggression so when a former colony on the doorstep wants to join NATO it is felt as a threat! All people and all communities and whole groups contain good and bad elements and God loves all of us! So if our thinking is informed by the Spirit we will object to the violent and inhumane attacks by Russia because they are inhumane and ungodly not because we identify with the Western alliance.

Third there is the danger of encouraging Governments to react with force rather than hearing God’s perspective on peacemaking. There is a purely human reason for not reacting with force: it usually results in an escalation in fighting and more people being wounded or killed. However, we do not rely on human strength or human thinking to deal with problems but on the Holy Spirit. Jesus said “Blessed are the peace-makers” and “Love your enemies.” While Christians have some different views on how this applies we cannot simply allow governments or others who are not Spirit-filled to tell us what it means or how to respond. Instead, let’s pray for wisdom and revelation or understanding (eg using Ephesians 1:17 and Colossians 1:9).

That brings us back to the most significant and important part of our response: prayer.

Let’s pray for God to raise up peace-makers, for help and comfort for the victims, for the consciences of perpetrators to be supernaturally awakened, for many things as the Spirit leads.
Let’s pray, expecting supernatural results, even if they do not fit into our assumptions, worldview or expectations.
Let’s pray, “Your Kingdom come” asking for the Kingdom to be revealed in specific ways now.
Let’s pray, remembering who God is:

Blessed be the name of God from age to age,
for wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons,
deposes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and light dwells with him

Daniel 2:20-22
- Chris Horton

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