Have you heard about the open letter of 28 celebrities posted on the website of the magazine "Emma"?
The signatories of this open letter call on the German Chancellor not to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine.
This letter is currently going through all the opinion bubbles, similar to what happened with Corona. There were suddenly divisions in groups and families where you would never have expected it and now it seems to be happening again.
These celebrities are at home in completely different bubbles and they are different professions, from artists to journalists, lawyers and also scientists.
For example, Alice Schwarzer and Dieter Nuhr have signed and they have nothing else to do with each other.
What does this letter say? Why is it causing such a storm in the media world?
We share the verdict on Russian aggression as a breach of the basic norm of international law. We also share the conviction that there is a principled political and moral duty not to retreat from aggressive force without a fightback. But everything that can be derived from this has limits in other precepts of political ethics..
We are convinced that two such limit lines have now been reached: First, the categorical prohibition of accepting a manifest risk of escalation of this war into a nuclear conflict. The delivery of large quantities of heavy weapons, however, could make Germany itself a party to the war. And a Russian counter-attack could thus then trigger the mutual assistance case under the NATO Treaty and thus the immediate danger of a world war. The second borderline is the degree of destruction and human suffering among the Ukrainian civilian population. Even justified resistance to an aggressor is at some point unbearably disproportionate to this.
We warn against a twofold error: firstly, that responsibility for the danger of escalation to nuclear conflict lies solely with the original aggressor and not also with those who, with their eyes open, provide him with a motive to act in a possibly criminalmanner.
And secondly, that the decision on the moral responsibility of the further "cost" in human lives among the Ukrainian civilian population falls exclusively within the competence of their government. Morally binding norms are universal in nature
The readers' letter forums in the various newspapers that have written an article about this letter are really buzzing at the moment.
There is everything from naivety to legitimate concern in the assessments, but the supporters of this letter seem to be in the minority.
I don't find this question easy either and have been thinking about how to judge the war and the arms supplies, especially as a Christian?
A good 100 years ago there were still people who called themselves Christians and blessed weapons. That feels wrong to me today. Or German Christians prayed for victory in the First World War. Many French Christians probably did the same, but of course that can't be right.
War in the Old Testament
We find quite a few wars described in the Bible in the Old Testament. They were part of the reality of people's lives at that time. There were even occasional wars that God ordered, but I think we have to see that in the context of the people of that time. It is similar with the animal sacrifices. These were ordered by God (there is a lot about this in Genesis) in order to make the principle of sin and forgiveness by God clear to the people in their understanding at that time.
This is described so beautifully in the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 10:1-4; NL):
The right sacrifice is Jesus Christ, as described in verse 10:
That is the right sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, the animal sacrifices were only a blurred symbol of that.
It is the same with the wars in the Old Testament. God, as already mentioned, sometimes made use of them because people did not know any other way, but actually God does not want war and the war descriptions from the Old Testament can serve us as images for our everyday struggle, in the struggle against seduction or temptation, in the struggle against not acting meanly towards others, etc.
The whole Old Testament is a picture book for us today with true stories to learn from.
But also in the Old Testament there are already universal statements about many things, also about war, e.g. in Micah 4, 1-4; where a future, new world is described:
When this future will come, I don't know, but you can see that war is not part of God's new world. It is not part of God's real plan and purpose.
But nevertheless there has always been war and there is still war today and in the Bible it is described quite soberly in some places.
For example, in Ecclesiastes 3 there is a passage that begins with the statement "There is a time for everything", where all sorts of everyday things are listed and in v.8 it says:
Actually, we don't want war to be an everyday thing. We have been living here in the land of the blessed without war for over 75 years, so much so that we almost no longer notice it.
But in that time there has always been war, even here on our doorstep in the former Yugoslavia, but somehow it was not here.
And now we are even threatened indirectly. And many people are afraid of being dragged into the war.
Eight years ago I gave a sermon on the subject of "war" and showed pictures of the grave field at Verdun in France. You surely know this grave field from television.
War is such crap, so many young people who die in it, for what, you ask yourself!
But war is not a game like "Risk", for example, where people get together beforehand and decide: "Now we're going to play war."
No, it is often the case that an army invades another country, and the army of the invaded country fights back. And in a scenario like that, you don't really get anywhere with blanket statements like "Make peace without weapons" or "Imagine it's war and nobody goes." or "They have to resolve their conflict peacefully." don't really get anywhere.
Some people might feel more like Psalm 68:31; NL
The Psalms are personal prayers and songs and often contain a lot of personal emotion, as you can hear well here.
Of course, this verse also reminded me of the war in Ukraine. But "Scatter the nations that delight in war."? Isn't that always just a small mean group of rulers who want war and the poor noble people don't?
I don't know, but I hope so. It would be stupid if 145 million Russians enjoyed war.
A war always includes soldiers, and soldiers who come back from war rarely speak positively about what they experienced there.
In the New Testament, soldiers are also mentioned in passing. For example, when various people ask John the Baptist what they should do, Roman soldiers are also mentioned (Luke 3:14; NL):
He is not saying here: throw away your weapons and desert, but remain decent within the scope of your job. However, I can already imagine scenarios where it is right to desert.
In the Second World War, the systematic murder of Jews in the occupied Soviet Union was carried out by task forces of the Nazi Security Service, often in cooperation with the Wehrmacht. And if detached soldiers had deserted for this, I would have full understanding for that.
But it remains difficult to judge all this. Let us return to this open letter. There are essentially two arguments there.
Firstly, by supplying weapons, one gives the original aggressor a motive to act criminally.
To me, this argument seems absurd because the aggressor does what he wants anyway. He doesn't seem to be open to negotiations, e.g. he has always denied before that there will be an invasion of Ukraine.
And the second argument is that the Ukrainian resistance will increase the number of civilian victims beyond measure. However, according to current knowledge, in some towns that were under Russian occupation for a while, e.g. Bushta, civilians were murdered by the occupying forces. Even more resistance might have prevented the victims.
Of course, it must be clear to you that my judgement about this letter and about this current situation is not worth much, as I also have no deeper knowledge and only know what is written in the media and make my thoughts about it.
What does the war mean for us?
I can think of three levels of meaning for us.
The first, most important, is that we pray for the situation, because only Almighty God can do anything about it. But what should we pray for?
For peace? What kind of peace? A victorious peace for Russia, a compromise between aggressor and invaded? A compromise between perpetrator and victim? That sounds strange.
For a victory for Ukraine? Yes, I sympathise with that, of course, because perpetrator and victim seem pretty clear to me in this conflict.
But I still feel overwhelmed with the situation, yet God sees our heart and looks at our motives and understands how we mean it.
In my personal overwhelm with the situation, I have come up with three points that I would like to pray for:
- for as few people as possible to lose their lives.
- for as few people as possible to lose their freedom.
- for as few people as possible to lose their homes.
The second level of importance for us is practical help. There are many refugees from Ukraine coming to our country and it is important to welcome them and help them.
I also think it is good that our country is doing a lot and we can also participate, depending on what God puts on each person's heart.
Learning something for ourselves
And then it also means that we try to learn something for ourselves.
One point is humility towards other opinions. I have already said that I do not find the arguments of this open letter valid, indeed I think they are obviously wrong in my eyes and that is already dangerous. We live in a time where groups of people call each other names, that they are obviously wrong, idiots, sleep sheep, wake up. We have long since arrived at such a level in our society.
In 1 Peter 5:5, ELB it says:
And humility includes recognising that one could also be wrong and that one does not consider the dissenter to be an idiot.
This is where we should differentiate ourselves from the world outside.
War within usAnd then again war can make us realise that the causes are not far away (James 4:1-3; NL):
We have realised that this is so and that we need forgiveness and that is why we have become Christians.
Let us pray that on the one hand we will have a realistic picture of ourselves and on the other hand we will always be able to deal with each other in peace and love.
- We looked at this open letter as a start, which essentially warns of nuclear war and civilian casualties through resistance to the aggressor. Today was about war.
- We looked roughly at wars in the Old Testament and how they are not models for our actions, but rather images to learn from. God does not actually want war, as was made clear in Micah 4:1-4 ("swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning knives").
- War today is unfortunately still commonplace, although it is terrible. I have briefly considered the statements of the open letter, but please make your own thoughts on that, as of course on all the rest of the sermon.
- What is the meaning of war for us today?
- Let us pray for the situation in Ukraine, that as few people as possible lose their lives, their freedom and their homes.
- Practical help for the Ukrainian refugees is needed.
- We can also learn from this:
- Humility towards other opinions. Even if others are wrong in our eyes, we might still be wrong. Let us see that we are different here from the world outside.
- War comes from the desires within us (James 4:1-3). Let us pray that we can see ourselves realistically and always deal with each other in love and peace.