Russia’s war on Ukraine will end, because nothing lasts forever. It’s too early to judge the ultimate outcome but, it’s clear that the Russian invasion has not achieved its original objectives. But when the invaders truly withdraw, what will happen next? I’m praying that Ukrainians will have cause to celebrate, and that worldwide support will enable them to rebuild (though nothing will restore the lost lives). Christians across the world have been praying for Ukraine, but are we praying for Russia?
Why pray for Russia? Because ignoring their plight will be disastrous for our grandchildren. Many voices will clamour for reparations, punishment, and revenge on the whole Russian nation, but that would be a big mistake. If we learn nothing else from the 20th century, we must at least learn that national humiliation builds a platform for dictators. After the First World War, the victorious allies demanded heavy financial reparations from Germany, damaging their economy and placing them in a weak position when the Great Depression started. The country was seriously impoverished, creating grievances that helped Adolf Hitler gain power – with disastrous consequences. After the Second World War, wiser counsels prevailed. The Marshall plan provided support to impoverished European countries – including Germany. Similar schemes supported Japan’s recovery, so that both former enemies were turned into friends.
In their war on Ukraine, Russia is undoubtedly the aggressor, but it would be wrong to blame 144 million people for the decisions of a minority. It seems that a majority of Russians support their government, but that’s because of the lies they’ve been told. We must not drive that huge nation into desolation and poverty. To do that would plant the seeds for hatred and future retaliation. Nelson Mandela’s South African experiment of the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” may have seemed like a crackpot scheme at first, but it showed the world that mercy has power. However, I wonder whether the world has really learned that lesson?
Jesus said, “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”, which was supremely wise advice. History teaches us again and again that the ultimate way to peace is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not weak. It’s difficult. It may go against our instincts. It may even seem unfair, but forgivers are the true winners. Quarrels truly end when someone forgives. Forgiveness is the only effective medicine for turning an enemy into a friend.
I’m not suggesting that justice be brushed aside. Those who have committed war crimes should face judgement. But those crimes have been committed by a minority – not the whole Russian nation. So, when we pray for Ukraine’s deliverance, let’s also pray for Russia’s enlightenment. Let’s pray for their freedom. Let’s pray for their restoration to the community of nations. Let’s pray that our leaders will have the wisdom to distinguish between the guilt of the few and the ignorance of the many. It’s in our own interests.
© Derrick Phillips 2022
 Matthew 5:44 (KJV)