Special Pastor’s Corner: War

February 24, 2022

“…They asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ … But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ā€ – Luke 22:49-51 with elisions

“No more of this.” Those were Jesus’ words as he faced “arrest” (violent detention), “trial” (no verdict but guilty would be entertained by any of his judges), “interrogation” (torture), and crucifixion (death by torture). Facing some of the worst Roman “justice” (terrorizing subject peoples) had to offer, Jesus had every reason to answer, “Yes! Strike with the sword!” He’d even made sure to know that two of his companions had swords (Luke 22:38). But now, instead:

“No more of this.”

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia did not begin today. Since 2014, roughly 13,000 people have died in the occupation of Crimea and an ongoing insurgency in the Donbas region. The Russian invasion will probably add more acreage to that nation. It will certainly add graves and multiply mourners in both nations.

To which I can only reply, “Jesus said, ‘No more of this.'”

The escalation in Ukraine is not even the worst conflict in the world in 2022. Four wars claimed over 10,000 lives in 2021: the internal conflict in Myanmar, the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan, the ten year old “Yemen Crisis,” and the Tigray War involving Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan. Violence has plagued Myanmar’s population for 73 years and claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

We tend to turn our interest to wars in Europe, partially because of American ties to Russia and Ukraine, and partially because European wars have been horrific. Our minds go to the two World Wars whose casualties ran into the tens of millions. In World War II the Soviet Union suffered over 23 million dead, both military and civilian. Next in this list of horror, however, was China, where 15 to 20 million died. Nor did the Second World War “begin” in Europe. Japan invaded China in 1937, a year before German troops marched into Czechoslovakia and two years before the 1939 invasion of Poland drew France and Great Britain into the war.

All of which means that Europe has no monopoly on organized violence – and doesn’t change Jesus’ perspective on this conflict or any of the other conflicts shedding human blood around the world one bit.

Jesus said, “No more of this.”

I don’t know if there was a way to avoid this war, or indeed any conflict between nations or within a nation. National leaders make demands that cannot be accommodated by other nations, even faced with violence. Those who seek to promote peace have a limited set of tools – if they coerce with military force, they have already failed. I do not pretend that economic sanctions come without harm. Civilian populations suffer when resources dwindle. The tool most consistent with the peacemakers’ goal is persuasion, and sometimes people are not persuaded.

To which I can only reply, “Jesus said, ‘No more of this.'”

And to which I can only add this prayer:

God of broken peace, God of soul-aching weeping, God who gathers up the spirits of the dead, hear our prayer.

We who have failed to soften the hearts of national leaders beg that you might bring your power to soften them, knowing that you have never turned a person into a puppet, knowing that we would never accept such a thing for ourselves, knowing that your word on this is “No more of this.”

We who have failed to bring wars to an end in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Tigray (not to mention fifty-three other conflicts and clashes around the world) beg your aid to build success. Our failures cost too much in lives and suffering and blood, as Jesus knew full well when he told us, “No more of this.”

We who ache for conflicted portions of our world know that we ache differently for different places. We know of some. We do not hear of others. We ignore some we know of. We barely even pray for others. We cannot know how much suffering our inattention adds, but we know full well that you will tell us, “No more of this.”

We who now might justify the use of force to stand against force beg to hear your voice again and again and again: “No more of this.”

May we hear your voice, O God, in all the places thundering with conflict, all the places echoing with weeping, all the places silent with death, and heed your call: “No more of this.”

Amen.

Self-portrait by Eric Anderson

Categories Pastor's Corner Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Posted on February 24, 2022

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