Dear Fellow Pastors and Leaders of the Church of God in Ukraine and Russia,
During the past weeks, the world – including your extended family in the International Church of God – has been watching with great attention the events unfold in the Ukraine, first the protests on the Maidan followed by the more recent events in Crimea. In the course of these events, I have spoken with several of our ministers on both sides of the geopolitical divide and know that the various opinions about these events are held with the greatest of passion.
We have witnessed how tensions are being pumped up between fraternal nations. Inevitably secular politics and geopolitical tensions impact our lives. When this occurs, there is a very real danger that these tensions will spill over into our churches, often pitting one Christian leader against another. Even more critical, the message of the gospel may get lost or even ignored by those who need to hear the Good News the most.
It is of utmost importance that we avoid the most horrible of diabolical provocations – that we begin to hate one another. Dearly beloved, let us not give into to the voices of this world. And may we always keep in mind that we are all brothers in the Lord for whom Christ also died. We have no other option than to strive for spiritual unity and demonstrate mutual respect for each other even when we have differing opinions.
It is not easy, especially in times like these, to love our neighbor who would appear to be on the other side. But that is the quintessence of the Christian Gospel. (Mark 12:30-31). Furthermore, let us continue to pray for peace and that there will be no more bloodshed. Let us pray for our secular leaders, for we also know that “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)
For although the geopolitical issues may be “urgent”, we have a more important and higher calling as representatives of the Gospel.
And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
(2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
I am persuaded that the Ukrainian, Russian and Belorussian Churches of God have much to learn from each other. And if the Lord continues to bless our church as He has in the past 20 years, we will begin to develop into new areas of ministry. Our need for interdependence as equal partners will not decrease, but increase. Together we can develop our outreach in foreign missions, youth and children ministries, church planting initiatives and training, coordination of social ministries, etc.
Finally, I encourage you to keep the faith and maintain the spiritual unity amongst ourselves. We do not know what the future holds and what the results will be from the actions taken by different sides. The entire landscape in which we do ministry can be totally different five years from now. We need to nurture and protect the fraternal relationships that will carry us forward in the future.
In His service
Thomas Rosson, Ph.D., Regional Superintendent
Church of God, Eastern Europe and the CIS
Phil 4: 5-7
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.