by Jack Hoehn  |  February 27, 2022  |

My grandfather was born in Odessa. He was not a Ukrainian or a Russian, but many Germans lived in German colonies at that time, farming the rich Ukrainian land. Later on when the Russian Czar decided he needed to expand his army, even German colonists began to be conscripted to serve the Russian Bear. When a Russian-conducted draft by lottery almost called his number, Christian Hoehn took his young German family and left Ukraine for Canada.

I was born to his son in Canada the year after WW2 ended. Most every adult Canadian male I knew had spent the 6 years before I was born fighting in the hills, valleys, and plains of Europe or otherwise involved in the prolonged Canadian experience of the Second World War.

17 years later when I did go to Europe as a student, there were still buildings destroyed by that war. In the hills I could still find remnants of Nazi Hitlerjugend training centers still being slowly overgrown by vegetation. The traces of war linger long. The national economies were slowly beginning to function again, thanks to the Marshal Plan.

A Bear Raised Up with Ribs

This past week since the Russian Bear has reawakened and is now hungry to reestablish itself as the Red Empire built with Kalashnikovs and blood, I have searched nightly on my ROKU streaming service for European news of the invasion of Ukraine.

There are many Ukrainian Adventists, of course, and not a few Russian Adventists. And I am sure that both of them feel the threat and pain of this foolish male aggression. There will be plenty of funerals, widows, orphans, and disabilities on both sides.

The power-thirsty blindness of nationalism has corrupted the so-called Christian Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to publicly support Putin propaganda that the Ukrainian victims were “evil forces” and “we must not allow dark and hostile external forces to laugh at us.”

By all means, Men of Sin, send in your cruise missiles, tanks, firebombs, with the rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air, so they won’t be laughing at you!

Where Is God?

And where, I ask, is God in this war?

I see mothers pulling a roller bag with one hand and a little child with the other, walking for hours to cross into Poland or Moldova or Hungary. And I see fathers shepherd them to the border, and then turn back to go pick up a weapon and die killing invaders so that those orphaned children can grow up not enslaved by another nation.

I have asked myself what I would do, and realize that if that were me, I would do the same, except I would show up at a hospital and say I’ll stay here helping care for the wounded until no care is possible. Not because I am brave, not because I no longer wish to live, but because like all the rest I am made in the image of the invisible God. We can’t help ourselves.

We are designed to help, to protect, to fight evil, to give up our lives for the sake of others. So by the hundreds of thousands, we must go and do what we can. We must protest, we must accept personal loss and inconvenience for sake of others. We must let the police put us in jail, or the invading army end our mortal lives, because the answer to “Where is God in war?” is: in us–that’s where.

We Are Where God Is

We are where God is. Dominion was given to us. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” is to be done by us. Heaven takes care of itself. Earth is to be cared for by you.

Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” But his Father didn’t send any angels, and the Son didn’t expect them.

Yes, he didn’t approve of Peter using a weapon, but he did offer himself up as a ransom for many and told me to take up my cross and follow him. I will not criticize those brave women and men who take “the sword” and who will die by “the sword,” using weapons in defense.

There may be a better way to die than holding onto a trigger. I have already seen the video of a brave unweaponed man walk in front of a Russian invading tank and cause it to swerve. Perhaps teams of brave men standing in front of tanks without weapons would be as powerful or more of a deterrent than throwing homemade Molotov cocktail bombs. Both actions could likely be fatal, and I for one would honor the bravery of both. We have options, but the option to do nothing is not one of them.

God Seen in You

I see on my TV screen (France 24, Deutsche Welle, BBC) Polish and German and Hungarian people opening homes and cars and not charging for tickets or meals or beds to those refugees. I see brave nations hurting their own economies in order to hurt the aggressor’s economy even more. I see Russian soldiers laying down their arms instead of killing Ukrainians when they realize their commanders lied to them about this being “a peacekeeping operation.”

And I confess that when I pray tonight, safe in my bedroom far from Ukraine or Moscow, I will pray that someone with a gun or a bomb will turn those terrible weapons back onto the ones commanding them to destroy their brothers and sisters and their children as sacrifices to empire, nation, megalomania, power, pride, “to make Russia great again” or to “stop people laughing at them.” I may need to be forgiven for that prayer, but I would rather be held guilty for over-reaction to evil than guilty of no reaction at all. Jesus said he’d rather have me hot or cold than nauseatingly tepid.

John B. Hoehn is a retired physician living in Walla Walla, Washington. His most recent book is ADVENTIST TOMORROW—Fresh Ideas While Waiting for Jesus. 

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