My first mission trip was to eastern Ukraine. Ironically, years before coming to preach at the Bear Valley congregation, I was in attendance with many other American brethren at the first graduation of a Bear Valley Bible Institute extension in the city of Kramatorsk. Despite mildly corrupt practices at the airport and in some local governments, Ukraine was a seemingly peaceful country.
If you watch or read the news, you know that tension, violence, and instability is currently a daily occurrence in that nation. At least dozens of protesters were killed by ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and his security forces. A new cabinet was elected, an interim president named, and asylum was granted to Yanukovych in Russia. Russian president Putin seems inclined to interfere, given that there is pro-Russian sentiment in parts of eastern Ukraine and pro-western sentiment in much of western Ukraine. Now, there are dark clouds gathering in the Crimean region bordering southeastern Ukraine. Russia and the European Union seem to be engaged in a tug-of-war over this nation that has tragedy draped like a pall over its storied history.
Despite all the friction and fighting, the citizens continue to speak of their desire that Ukraine remain one nation. That may prove difficult (some facts gleaned from BBC.com and The Washington Post, Will England and William Booth, 2/27/14).
What a dramatic illustration of the need of unity and the external forces that threaten to undo it. The Lord’s church has faced the threat of internal and external forces intent on trying to divide and hurt the body of Christ. The devil has been a constant force to that end. The early church faced Judaizers, gnosticism, and false teachings about the resurrection, the deity of Christ, and the second coming. A few centuries was all it took for a new, false church to form. Ultimately, protestant denominationalism was spawned from it. Cults, world religions, skepticism, and unbelief challenge us. So does worldliness and immorality.
We get to choose how we respond, both locally and on the whole. We can splinter and divide, or we can rally around the supreme authority of Christ. There will always be pressures seeking to push us apart from one another. We must have even greater determination to stick together, bound by the banner of the Bible!