Buckingham Palace announced yesterday that Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for coronavirus. The ninety-five-year-old monarch is reportedly experiencing mild cold-like symptoms but expects to continue light duties at Windsor over the coming week.
One fact the pandemic has made emphatically clear is that we are each mortal. We enter this world with nothing and we leave it with nothing. One day, the queen will stand alone before the King, as will we all: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
If we could all remember that fact, our world would be dramatically transformed. My friend John Stonestreet is right: “Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims.”
“The biggest war in Europe since 1945”
CBS News reported yesterday that Russian commanders have received orders to proceed with an invasion of Ukraine and commanders on the ground are now making specific battlefield plans. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said all signs suggest that we are on the brink of an invasion. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that Russia is planning “the biggest war in Europe since 1945.”
Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics came to a close in China yesterday, ending what the New York Times is calling “a games marked by triumph, heartbreak, and scandal.” China’s horrific treatment of the Uyghur people has been in the headlines since 2014, with more than a million Turkic Muslims in this northwestern region of China incarcerated. This is being called “the largest-scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II” with forced abortions, forced sterilization, forced birth control, forced labor, torture, and brainwashing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is in such complete control of his government and military that the Moscow Times called him “a modern-day Tsar.” China is ruled by the seven members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo but led in actuality by Xi Jinping, who is general secretary, president, and head of the military.
Both men reflect the cultural narratives of their cultures. Russia has historically been governed by a single strong leader, whether a tsar, a General Secretary of the Communist Party, or a president. China has functioned in a similar fashion across its history, whether its leaders were emperors or Communist officials.
When we usurp God’s throne
By contrast, America’s founding ideal is captured in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This ethic is itself founded on the Judeo-Christian worldview and its claims that every human is equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) but also equally fallen and sinful (Romans 3:23).
Here we find the two catalytic reasons for our republic: we are each equally deserving of life, liberty, and happiness, but we are each so finite and fallen that none of us can be trusted with unaccountable power and authority. For both reasons, there should be no kings, tsars, despots, or otherwise unelected leaders among us.
In Abraham Lincoln’s immortal words, our founders created a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
My purpose is not to extol my country in contrast with others. Admittedly, our nation, as it is led by fallen people, has not fully lived up to our constitutional values. The man who wrote the Declaration was a slave owner who fathered children by one of his slaves. It took a civil war and another century of civil rights advances to eradicate governmentally sanctioned racism and Jim Crow laws. We still have far to go to realize fully our ideals.
But my point is this: the equality of all people is our ideal. Like Queen Elizabeth II, we are all mortal: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). When we usurp God’s throne and seek to be our own gods (Genesis 3:15), tragedy soon ensues, whether in the garden of Eden, Ukraine, China, or our own backyards.
“Christianity is a power religion”
Imagine a world in which every person valued every other person equally as made in God’s image. Imagine a world in which our leaders saw themselves as servants of those they led (cf. John 13:14–15). These ideas would have monumental and transformative consequences for our entire world. By contrast, rejecting them leads to victims of every kind, including adultery in marriage, child abuse in families, crime in our cities, and wars against nations.
So, it turns out, John Stonestreet is right about the power of ideas. John F. Kennedy noted, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” This fact shows us a powerful way Christians can respond to the crisis in Ukraine, with the Uyghurs, or anywhere people are oppressing people: we can and should pray for God to change the minds and hearts of the oppressors.
Christians as disparate as David French and Franklin Graham are praying that God “turns Vladimir Putin’s heart from war,” as French states. We should join them, and we should do the same for Xi Jinping. If you doubt God’s ability to change the heart of someone who seems so far from his word and will, remember what the risen Christ did with Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–22).
As we pray for the Holy Spirit to convict people who are sinning against people, let’s remember to pray the same for ourselves. Peter Marshall was right: “Christianity is a power religion. Christ has the power to recreate men from the inside out.”
R. C. Sproul asserted: “The Spirit brings order out of chaos and beauty out of ugliness. He can transform a sin-blistered man into a paragon of virtue. The Spirit changes people. The Author of life is also the Transformer of life.”
Is he transforming you today?