Hassan is an eleven-year-old Ukrainian boy. When Russia invaded his country, his mother, a widow, was unable to travel because she had to stay with her sick mother. So she sent her son out of the country on a train by himself with only a plastic bag, a passport, and a telephone number written on his hand.
He traveled roughly 620 miles to Slovakia to meet relatives. After he arrived safely, she said, “I am very grateful that they saved the life of my child.”
Vladimir Putin clearly considers expanding the Russian Empire worth the lives of thousands of Hassans.
A story as old as humanity
The first fact we discover about humans in God’s word is that we are each made in the image and likeness of God. After we learn that “God created man in his own image,” we are even told, “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Clearly, every male and every female is equally valuable in the eyes of his or her Maker (cf. Acts 10:34; Galatians 3:28).
From then until now, nearly every sin we commit against each other is a violation of this fact. Cain considered Abel’s life worth less than his own. Joseph’s brothers felt the same about him. From Egypt’s enslavement of the Hebrews to the Western world’s enslavement of Africans, sex traffickers enslaving their victims today, and nearly every other kind of crime in the day’s news, we see all around us the horrific consequences of rejecting Genesis 1:27.
In this sense, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a contemporary example of a tragic story as old as humanity. His Communist upbringing and KGB career taught him the Communist worldview with its depreciation of the individual as a means to the end of the state.
“Primeval conditions in besieged cities”
The New York Times reports this morning that the war has taken “a decidedly darker turn, with hundreds of thousands of people now living in primeval conditions in besieged cities as Russian forces try to batter the country into submission.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight address, “We are doing everything to save our people in the cities that the enemy just wants to destroy.”
Writing for The Times of Israel, Rachel Sharansky Danziger notes, “Vladimir Putin’s invasion is very eloquent and very loud in this regard. It says: Might Makes Right. It says: human lives are cheap. It says: liberties and free speech must give way to the good of the state, and the good of the state lies in its glory, not in its people’s safety and welfare.”
Then she asks, “Are we willing to accept a world shaped on these terms?”
China’s horrific treatment of the Uyghurs and Kim Jong Un’s imprisonment and torture of those viewed as threats to his dictatorship are other examples. The long history of anti-Semitism is yet another illustration of humanity’s sinful “will to power” and willingness to subjugate other races and peoples to the advancement of our own.
“A rule which is not tyranny”
There is another side to this story. America’s founding on the biblical fact that “all men are created equal,” while fueling our pioneer spirit and entrepreneurial culture, must be balanced with the biblical fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Otherwise, the equality of human lives leads to the equality of human ideas. There can be no right and wrong, only what is right for me and wrong for you.
As D. A. Carson notes in The Intolerance of Tolerance, tolerance then becomes not the right to be wrong but the insistence that there is no such thing as “wrong.” The result is the destruction of institutions foundational to human flourishing.
From the equal rights of the unborn to the definition and sanctity of marriage, the healthy expression of sexuality within biblical marriage, the dignity and value of the elderly and infirm, and the urgency of justice for all races and ethnicities, every dimension of human experience is damaged when objective truth is replaced by relativistic tolerance.
In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis noted that “the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means . . . the power of some men to make other men what they please.” By contrast, “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
A light that “cannot be hidden”
Such a “rule” and “obedience” is captured in the biblical call to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” to God (Romans 12:1). As a “living sacrifice,” every dimension of our lives is to be yielded every moment of every day to our Master and King.
Here we find one of the reasons why a “compartmentalized” life is so hazardous to the life of faith. When Jesus is a sermon subject and a person of history but not an intimate, present reality in our day-to-day lives, we miss the joy and the power he infuses in every soul that is truly united with him.
Conversely, when Jesus is king of every part of our lives every day, we experience the “abundant life” he came to bring (John 10:10) and become the light that “cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14) and “overcomes the world” (1 John 5:4).
So, like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, we can reject Genesis 1:27 by viewing other people as a means to the advancement of the state. Similarly, we can reject Genesis 1:27 by viewing other people as a means to our personal advancement and agendas. Alternately, we can embrace Genesis 1:27 as mandating the relativistic equality of all ideas and values and thus replacing truth with tolerance.
Or we can decide today to become a “living sacrifice” to our Lord and King.
“Let there be peace on earth”
Imagine a world in which every Christian made that choice every day. Imagine the impact on every person we influence. Imagine the difference if Christians around the world led the nations of the world to value every person as God does.
A beloved hymn so relevant to our war-torn world begins, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
Would you make these words your prayer today, to the glory of God?