While the world bears witness to Russia's barbaric invasion of peaceful Ukraine, some of us will inevitably ask: Where is God in the midst of this horror? Why has God permitted Vladimir Putin to visit this great evil upon the people of Ukraine? Where is God in the midst of their suffering and affliction?
For those of us who look to Scripture to help us find answers to these kinds of questions, here are a couple of passages for us to consider. First, the highly symbolic narrative surrounding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the book of Genesis immediately comes to mind. In this story about the beginnings of humankind, we are informed that God was present and accessible to our ancestors, and that he was ready and willing to provide them with everything that they would need to sustain themselves and to instruct them in the ways that would secure their lives and happiness. Moreover, we are informed there that God specifically warned our ancestors that they would die if they decided to ingest the fruit of the mysterious tree that had been chosen to represent knowledge of the difference between good and evil. Of course, most of us are very familiar with the story's outcome. Our ancestors rejected God's guidance and chose to decide for themselves and their future offspring to pursue and consume this fruit - the knowledge of good and evil - the ability to discern for themselves what was right and wrong.
Hence, from the perspective of Scripture, Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine is consistent with the choice our progenitors made so long ago. In other words, separate and apart from God, Putin decided that it was right for him to invade Ukraine and subjugate it to his will. Why would he make such a decision?
In the New Testament epistle attributed to James, we are given some significant insights into the answer to that question. Beginning in the third chapter of that book, we are informed that jealousy and selfishness are not encompassed within God's definition of wisdom (verse 15). Instead, we read: "For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness." (Verses 16-18) For James, God is clearly not the author of jealousy and selfish ambition.
Keeping in mind that chapter and verse designations were added many years after this epistle was originally written, we see that the thought continues into the next chapter - and we find there the answer to our question about why Putin would make such a terrible decision. Continuing, we read: "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure." (James 4:1-3)
Like our ancient ancestors in the Garden of Eden, Vladimir Putin has chosen to decide for himself what is the proper course of action for himself and his nation. He has made a decision which he feels is in the best interest of himself and his nation, but he will be sadly disappointed in the end. His decision to take away Ukraine's freedom, independence and territory will not bring him the security and prosperity which he seeks. Unfortunately, this is a story that humanity has repeated over and over again during the course of its sojourn on this planet. However, according to the Bible, there is good news ahead for the people of Ukraine (and all of the rest of us): Humankind will one day learn the lesson that only God has the ability to discern what is the appropriate course of action for us - to designate what is good and what is bad!