Dr. Phil – In one of the articles in this edition a passage in Galatians was referenced which referred to the reality that our membership in the Body of Christ supersedes our ethnicity, nationality and even gender distinctions. This was highlighted for me rather graphically several years ago in the midst of the Russian/Ukraine conflict (which is out of the news but still ongoing).
I happened to be on a trip to Ukraine at the time and was planning on travelling to the Crimea (at the time still part of Ukraine) and then fly onward to Moscow, Russia. However, due to the conflict, I could not get to Crimea and all flights were disrupted from Ukraine to Russia. It was only a couple weeks after I left the eastern city of Donetsk that the relatively new airport was bombed to the ground.
We had ministry contacts in both countries and in those early days I noticed that divisions arose even among believers as they blamed each other. Unfortunately, the unity between similar denominations that had been forged between Russia and Ukraine since early 1990 came apart and old divisions resurfaced.
Typically I would be with believers in Ukraine one week and then be with believers in Russia the next and would hear two different views of the same events. I found myself reminding believers and churches that before we are citizens of Russia, Ukraine, US or Canada, we are citizens of heaven – we are all part of the universal Body of Christ that Paul was talking about in Galatians. We are to have a unity that is above national and cultural identity.
Of course, this is often easier said than done. It is easy to get committed to the world view of our own country and lose sight of God’s bigger perspective. I must admit, having twice been refused a visa to enter Russia, I have not always had happy thoughts towards the current officials or the current state of geopolitical affairs. I find myself also struggling with anger as I see how governments treat their own people in the various countries we work. They are often more concerned with lining their own pockets than doing what is best for their citizens.
But while we do not have control over governments and what they choose to do, I am reminded again by Paul that as members of the Body we are to be unified in purpose, regardless of our national citizenship or affiliation. For me this also means not viewing citizens in any particular country through the prism of the actions of their government or its policies. If we do this, it only serves to separate us from each other which weakens our ability to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).