Since the 2014 Ukrainian “Revolution of Dignity” and subsequent invasion by Russia, peacemaking has become central to the work we are doing here. When we think of peacemaking, we think of it in the context of reconciliation. In order to achieve true reconciliation and lasting peace, we need to begin with understanding what God’s original intent was for humanity. God has existed in eternal, perfect fellowship. Inside the relationships of the Holy Trinity there was no envy, no pride, no selfishness – it was perfect love, joy and peace. And that is exactly why God created humanity. In his perfect relationship of love, God’s desire was to share that same relationship with all of humankind. God wanted to open the circle of the Trinity and invite us to join in their eternal, perfect embrace.
But, as we all know much too well, sin destroyed God’s good plan for humanity. Sin led to prejudice, which has distorted all of our relationships. Now, instead of enjoying the incredible unity in diversity that God intended for his world, we approach the other with fear. Instead of approaching the other as one who reflects the glory of the God in ways different and unique from my group, our wounds lead us to see others as threats or as inferior – less worthy than our own group. Instead of the unity in diversity that God desired, we have prejudice, division, fear and hatred.
John 10:10 says, “The thief has come to steal, kill and destroy….” The thief has come to every ethnic group, and even to each person. We have all suffered losses at the hands of the thief. We have all been wounded. And wounded people wound others.
Thankfully, Jesus has given us an answer to our woundedness! At the cross, Jesus not only bore our sin, but also bore our wounds (see Isaiah 53). On the cross Jesus bore not only the sin of the world, but also all the consequences of that sin. By bringing the pain of our own personal wounds and also the pain of the wounds of our ethnic group to the cross of Christ we can find healing that frees us to be able to forgive the offender or seek forgiveness from our victims. And then we can find true, lasting reconciliation and peace.
In Ukraine, we have been leading workshops taking people through this process for two years now. God has been doing a miraculous work of healing, reconciliation and building toward peace in this great nation. This is central to our mission as “ministers of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). It also opens the door to the abundant life Jesus desires for each of us (look at the second half of John 10:10) – a life of celebrating unity in our glorious, God-given diversity.
Tonight is Christmas Eve in Ukraine. The temperature in Kyiv has dropped to a frigid -17C (2F) with a RealFeel of -31C (-24F). Families snuggled together for Christmas Eve and the traditional 12 dishes consisting of fish, mushrooms, and dried fruit. As they exchange toasts for happiness, success, and all that is good, George is on a train heading east.
From Monday through Wednesday, fifty people are expected to gather from villages very close to the frontline of war. These villages were at one point under the occupation of Russia’s proxy forces but have since been liberated by the Ukrainian forces. The sting of war is fresh.
They gather to find peace – not particularly the peace that results in a ceasing of mortar fire but rather peace in their souls that comes from healing and reconciliation. George and first-time facilitator, Victoria, are leading the workshop “Healing the Wounds of Ethnic Conflict.” In the workshop, participants meet Jesus who entered our cold and cruel world to take away our sin and pain and replace it with life – life to the abundance.
Pray for George and Victoria as they lead the three-day workshop and serve as God’s agents to bring healing to deep family and ethnic issues. We covet your prayers as this important ministry is often under fierce attack by Satan who wants to thwart God’s mission.
May the God of peace bring healing to Ukraine and all corners of the world in which He entered as a baby nearly 2000 years ago.