The Bishop to the Armed Forces, Rev Hugh Nelson, says that violence and aggression will not ultimately win


Red paint is seen smeared over a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin during an anti-war protest outside the Russian Embassy in Romania

Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

One of the challenges, as we watch with horror the events unfolding in Ukraine, is knowing what’s actually going on.

The confusion of war means accurate information is fragmentary and hard to come by, and the information that we do get needs careful scrutiny to separate truth from lies and fact from falsehood.

As Christians we also know that there are different stories being told about the world. In one version, the world is a place of constant struggle, in which the strongest will win and violence has the upper hand. This week we see that version of reality being unleashed on the people of Ukraine, and we are watching the terrible consequences on our TV screens.

There have always been people who have wanted that story to be true, and sometimes it seems as if they might be right.

But that’s not the story that we, followers of Jesus Christ, live by. We follow a different story teller; the one who declared peacemakers to be blessed, who revealed the all embracing power of love and the one in whom death on a cross became the route to the fullness of life. It’s the story of heaven on earth.

We cry out to God for an end to this great evil

And that story is woven into the fabric of the universe, and we know it will, one glorious day, be fully seen in a new heaven and new earth in which there will be no more violence or war, no more injustice or pain; in which every tear will be wiped away by God himself; in which love will rule.

At the moment though, the version of life in which violence and war win out seems to have the upper hand, and we wonder where love, grace and mercy have gone. We cry out to God for an end to this great evil and we wonder how he can let this be; how this terrible suffering can be unleashed on ordinary Ukrainian people.

But even now, even in the midst of so much pain, we know that the story of violence and aggression will not ultimately win; we know that it cannot win. Because the story of a different world and a different way is still being told, and we see it in every act of bravery and every gesture of kindness, we hear it in every prayer for peace and every song of hope, we know it every time a bomb misses its target or a bullet falls short.

Father Andriy Zelinskyy is a Catholic chaplain in the Ukrainian army. Shortly before the invasion he said, “I see my role as helping lean heaven toward the soldiers.” He is there, in the midst of evil and suffering, bringing the story of God’s rule and reign, a story built entirely on peace, justice and grace, towards the men and women he is serving in Christ’s name.

As we watch events unfold, wondering what’s really happening and how we can help, we stand firmly in that story; of our good, faithful God, who created the world out of love and who is constantly calling it back to his purposes; of Jesus Christ, who walked in this messy and broken world telling a different story, in which love and grace have the upper hand, and who went to the very depths of hell to ensure it was true; of the Holy Spirit, who is alive and active in every moment, calling courage out of fear, and healing out of pain.

And as we stand faithfully in that story, even when it seems so far from reality, we like Father Zelinskyy, are playing our part in helping lean heaven towards earth, so that God’s truth and justice can pour in.

May God protect those facing danger today. May he guide those making impossible decisions. May he lean heaven towards Ukraine, that his Kingdom might come.