Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. -Psalm 3:7
Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions! -Psalm 58:6
If the current war in Ukraine has caused many to rediscover anything, it is specific prayers in the Bible that we used to ignore or that would cause embarrassment. The two I quoted above from Psalms fall into that category. They are pleas for God to essentially step in and beat up the enemies of Israel in some graphic ways. How can these be justified as “Christian” prayers?
In light of Russia attacking Ukraine unnecessarily and brutally, I fully relate to these prayers. In talking with our National Leader in Ukraine, she even confessed how shocked she was to find herself praying prayers like this. I know I certainly have been, and a similar sentiment has been true for many following closely with alarm and anger.
I’ve never been a fan of “nice” Christianity. Jesus himself, as well as the prophets and apostles, were not always nice either. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is not “niceness.” It is “kindness.” But kindness means to “show oneself useful.” Kindness, therefore, is more action-oriented than sentiment-oriented. As James says, If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16). It may be a “nice” sentiment to wish someone well, but a case could be made that it is cruel and unkind if nothing is done to show yourself useful in meeting someone’s needs.
This is not the same as saying we need to be mean people. I admit I can cross that line at times. Nor does it mean we are not a people seeking and pursuing peace. We need to be peacemakers. But it is to say that true faith is not as “polished” as we sometimes may want it to be or feel pressure to make it be.
I’ve battled this my whole life. I am strongly averse to “nice” and “polished” Christianity. I have a problem with those whose faith isn’t messy. My God, Jesus himself was crucified in a bloody and brutal way! He also prayed with “fervent cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).
I also question those who have a faith that never seems to doubt, never wrestles with the complex realities of life, who express religious sentiments trying to smooth over challenging situations rather than sitting with people in their suffering and sometimes keeping their mouths shut, are overly spiritual, and never show real and raw human emotion, especially in prayer.
But I think that is changing for many of us as we watch what is happening in Ukraine with deep sadness and anger. Just read the following and see what you feel. These are real pleas for help our leader in Ukraine received from people in just 2 ½ hours time:
- It’s the third night we sit in the basement with my three kids… there is no electricity and heating. Please, help us and take us out from the area of bombing. I don’t care where we will go.
- I am a mom of 9 adopted kids … we don’t have anywhere to go and don’t know what to do. Please, help!
- I have a kid with disability, but I have lost the passport… Please, don’t leave our family behind.
- There is no way to contact my husband… Two our kids are with me, but I don’t have any money. Take us from the war.
- Right now, I am sitting in evacuation train from Kyiv. We are heading to western Ukraine. I don’t know what to do next…my sick mom is also with me. She is limited in movement.
- I am not ready to leave my town… I have cancer and I had my chemo just three days ago. I am very weak…Please, help me to find the medicine I need.
- Our town has been bombed; all roads are destroyed now. We don’t have means to get to a safe place, and it’s too dangerous to go on foot through the forest. What shall we do?
- We were leaving our home at night with my mom, but our Makar (kitten) was left behind. Please, save him and find a kind owner for him… (pause, tears) – Maksym, 8 years
- I have been in the bus with two small kids (1.5 and 3 years old) for 18 hours so far. I need a place for a night and assistance to get to the border tomorrow. Please, don’t turn us down.
- I am on business trip abroad. But my elder parents are at their home in Ukraine, the contact with them has been lost. Please, find them and tell me that they are alive.
- Our neighbors were under shelling yesterday. I am terrified… Please, take me out of here anywhere.
- I am so grateful for the accommodation you have provided and for your care as well as for assistance with crossing the border. My kids are safe now. Pregnant mom with 5 kids.
I know what my and our Ukrainian friends’ prayers are, and they are a combination of two pleas aimed at two different groups of people: Lord deliver your people…and break the teeth of the wicked. Anything less is not a faith I trust or can believe in, but this, this is a faith that is real.
***ServeNow, the mission organization I lead is responding actively to helping as many in Ukraine as possible. We have evacuated over 100 to safety and are providing daily lodging, food, and basic needs. We continue to work to evacuate others and meet needs. It costs $25 a day per person. We are in this for the long-haul and committed to serving the people of Ukraine through this terrible time. You can give to these efforts on our website: www.weservenow.org, call to donate at 719-900-1800, or mail a check to 1817 Austin Bluff’s Pkwy #110, Colorado Springs, CO 80918.