It’s been said the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and while Christians might not consider those in other theological traditions as “enemies,” they often let minor disagreements regarding traditions get in the way of more important work of spreading God’s Word and our hope, faith and salvation in Jesus. But in times of war, especially spiritual war when we are fighting a common enemy, we must lay aside our minor differences in order to unite as allies in the effort to win to Christ those who don’t yet follow Him.
EEM (Eastern European Mission) has seen this scenario play out on the ground in Ukraine, where currently there is a literal war going on. The camaraderie and unity among the Christian organizations working together to bring relief and share the hope of God’s Word with the people of Ukraine has been astounding. There’s been no territorial behavior, no lack of generosity with funds, and no need to get the credit for the good work that’s being done. It’s been a blessing for EEM to be a part of that, but most importantly, to know that souls are being won to Christ before it’s too late.
Dozens of Christian ministries from a variety of theological, denominational, and cultural backgrounds have joined forces to aid refugees in need. One ministry may distribute food, another ministry may provide clothing or shelter, while still a third shares Bibles and offers counseling to those with spiritual questions or mental and emotional health needs. Across language barriers and outside their comfort zones, these believers have joined hands to serve as instruments of God in these troubled times. We and other Christian ministries based here in the U.S. have been happy to send humanitarian aid to any and all groups working with refugees, so long as they are serving with integrity and in Jesus’ name. No one is getting territorial as we recognize that lives are truly at stake.
Believers in Ukraine are also helping to bring unity even across cultural divides. Prior to this war with Russia, a conflict between eastern and western Ukraine raged on, with those in the east wanting to separate from Ukraine and align themselves with Russia. These “separatists” had taken occupancy of the Donbass Region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk. Deep animosity existed between these two opposing sides. But once Russia began attacking that eastern portion of the country, many eastern Ukrainians headed westward to escape the bombings and bring their families to safety. They were shocked and pleasantly surprised to find the western Ukrainians opening their hearts and homes to welcome them as true brothers and sisters, and this effort was led, of course, by the many Christians in the region.
Through showing God’s love to those that others might have viewed as enemies, they have seen the radical truth in Scripture come to life: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45). As a result, those who were once enemies have become friends, countrymen, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
In addition, heads of state in surrounding nations have shown that people throughout Eastern Europe are pulling together in support of Ukraine, waiving taxes on Bible shipments in the region, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in transportation costs in order to serve refugees. We are seeing this same spirit of cooperation in both the physical and the spiritual conflict.
Here in the U.S., it’s clearer than ever before that the forces aligned against the Christian faith are growing stronger every day. In recent years, we’ve had a hard time recognizing who the enemy is, instead demonizing groups with whom we have disagreed politically or socially. This has allowed the real enemy to gain ground, taking advantage of our historic disunity and using political and social issues to further the divide.
But it seems we are beginning to awaken to the forces of darkness, recognizing that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood. Believers are finally dropping religious institutional differences in order to band together with other followers of Jesus in the fight for the souls of our kids and grandkids. We are in a spiritual war, and we need one another as allies in this battle. It has become more clear cut – more black and white – as to who the real enemy is, just as Ukrainians have discovered in recent months. So, we are now saying to one another, “if you love Jesus, that’s enough for me. Let’s fight together for good to triumph over evil.”