Pastor of “Hosanna” Lviv Evangelical Church

Director of a Christian youth organization

 

Academic conference: “The Ukrainian cooperative movement”

“Social policy in Ukraine from the churche's point of view”

June, 13

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

Let me start my speech with these two Bible passages:

 

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth… (1 Jn 3: 17-19)

 

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2: 14-17)

 

No Christian would deny that the mission of spiritual enlightenment and passing on the saving Word of God was entrusted by Jesus Christ to His Church. We Christians are responsible for spreading the truth of God all over the earth. It is our mission to convey the Gospel of Christ.

 

However, one can’t help noticing that the methods applied for this purpose by many contemporary Christians often differ from those applied by Our Lord Jesus.

 

While bringing salvation and spiritual purification, Jesus never forgot the personal needs of people and always encountered pressing challenges from the society he lived in. Not only the spiritual but also all the other needs of people who came into this world after the fall were close to him.

 

Jesus gave food to the hungry and water to the thirsty; he healed the sick and consoled the depressed. He felt compassion and was sensitive to human needs.

 

Someone made a very insightful remark: “Even God cannot talk to the hungry except in the language of bread.”

 

Before leaving this earth, the Lord said to his followers: “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.” (Jn. 14:12)

 

Thus we, as modern followers of Jesus Christ, shall do what He has been doing. Therefore the contemporary Churches cannot dissociate themselves from social problems. They are responsible for feeling sympathy and worrying about them as Jesus Christ Himself did. Otherwise we are not implementing his mission in full.

 

Let us remember Saints Paul and Peter the Apostles. The Bible recounts that early in his spiritual activity Paul addressed Peter for approval. This is what he says about their agreement:

 

James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given in me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews, all they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

 

The Apostles, confessing the truth of God’s Word, didn’t forget about the problems of the society they lived in.

 

If the local Church is concentrated solely on spiritual issues, its doctrine, its uniqueness, and does not take care of the problems of society, it does not correspond to its primary purpose.

 

We Ukrainian Churches are often surprised at the indifference of individuals and public authorities to the needs of the Church. But is this so surprising in the light of indifference on the part of the Church itself to people and their needs, to public life? It is quite natural that the question arises: Why should this city, this district, and these people take care of such a Church? A Church which is deaf to human needs gathers its due fruit, described in the following expression in the Bible:

 

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (Prov.21:13)

 

We are living in a society with incurable bleeding wounds. A low level of spirituality, destruction of family values (inexorable statistics says that nearly half of registered marriages end in divorce), the AIDS growth rate, according to which Ukraine ranks the first in Europe, the high level of children’s mortality, an increase in the number of abortions, juvenile delinquency, alcoholism, drug addiction, problems of the disabled, homeless, pensioners and other misfortunes cannot help calling for a response and compassion in the heart of a true Christian.

 

Once during a business trip to Canada I was asked. “Why in a country claiming to be Christian are there still orphanages today? Why don’t your Christians adopt all the orphans?”

 

I don’t know how to answer such questions. The only thing I know is that we, the Ukrainian Christian Churches, are responsible for, so to say, the “adoption” of this society, our earth, and become the response of Christ to the modern problems of humanity.

 

The Bible teaches us to cry with those who cry and to rejoice with those who rejoice. In other words, the life and sufferings of our neighbors should become as close to us as our own.

 

But there is no point in hoping that the Churches will be able to give an appropriate answer to all the challenges of our time if they stay as dispersed and hostile as they are now. While there are competition, misunderstanding and divisions among us, we are doomed to scanty and poor results.

 

When Jesus prayed for His followers in his high priestly prayer, He asked about unity. He said that we’ll be able to exercise real influence with this world only if we are one.

 

Our local church serves stratums of the population like the homeless, alcohol and drug addicts, the disabled, and orphans. We perform preventive work among young people against AIDS, drug addiction, tobacco smoking, alcoholism, abortion and other problems. However, looking around, we see that our efforts are like a drop in a boundless sea and without fruitful collaboration with other Christians we won’t be able to exercise appreciable influence with society. We need the unity which Jesus dreamed of.

 

The Bible teaches us that unity should not be perceived as uniformity. True unity is the ability to accept and be in communion with others. In my opinion, the modern Christian Churches are a long way from true unity. But still I believe that, because of the fact that our long-suffering Ukrainian land receives a worthy answer to challenging problems, we’ll be able to overcome our ambitions and pride and stand like a wall against all threats.

 

To end, I would like to cite one of our great predecessors:

 

“Unity in essentials, freedom in second-order matters, and love in all the rest”