The following is a story from the BBC News organization.
Reverend Dudarenko was a priest of the Ukraine Orthodox Church. Like churches in America, the Orthodox Church has been split in recent years over politics.
As of 2019, the Orthodox Church has been divided between the Russian Orthodox and the Ukrainian Orthodox.
Prior to 2019, Reverend Dudarenko and his congregation were affiliated with Ukrainian Church. However, the president of Ukraine in 2010 was sympathetic to Russia and demanded that all churches be affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 2010, pressures from the Russian Orthodox Church caused Dudarenko to leave the church building where he conducted services. He began holding services in the outdoors and later in a trailer.
On March 5, Reverend Dudarenko was west of Kyiv, manning a checkpoint to the entrance of the city.
Russian tanks invaded their village and people at the checkpoint scattered into the woods.
The unarmed priest approached the tanks, holding a wooden cross overhead. In an instant, he was cut down by machine-gun fire from one of the tanks.
The story of Reverend Dudarenko is one of the thousands of tragic and needless war stories from Ukraine. It is a modern-day commentary on Paul’s message to the Corinthian church.
A Divided Church
The Orthodox Church will remain fractured for generations because of the war in Ukraine.
The pictures of Russian Orthodox priests blessing rifles, jet fighters, and missiles that are being used on their Ukrainian brothers and sisters will remain in infamy for years to come.
The church in America should not be too smug. The Civil War and its aftermath splintered Baptists into three distinct groups that are still largely separate in 2022.
The knowledge that is used to rationalize behavior is a divisive force. Paul speaks to this issue in 1 Corinthians 8. I will pick up his message with verse 7.
— 1 Corinthians 8.7-12 – It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?
So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.
But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
The issue of eating food offered to idols seems minor compared to war and slavery, but the principles are the same.
When the powerful use their knowledge to harm the weak, something is wrong. When the powerful people happen to be Christians and still engage in wrong behavior, it is even worse.
Idols in a Modern Era
If you think a trip to the gas pump is painful, consider that filling the tank of a Russian Oligarch’s yachts is nearly one million dollars.
The world’s system uses well-crafted rationalizations to justify excessive wealth at the expense of the less powerful.
Jesus taught that behind the world’s system is a thief whose intent is to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10.10).
Paul knew that demons were the invisible powers behind the idols in Corinth. We are seeing demonic forces at work in our world, as people take any course they please to obtain wealth and power.
By no means should the church join in this deception. The cost is too high and the church should never “baptize” or bless the idols of power and wealth.
Around 620,000 people died in America’s Civil War. Who knows how many innocent Ukrainians will die as did Reverend Dudarenko? How many Russian and Ukrainian soldiers will die because of the ambitions of a small number of elite power brokers in Russia?
As we consider the church in America, we do well to ask ourselves if those who seek to divide us are operating out of “knowledge” or love.
Paul wrote about self-sacrifice and self-giving love.
He said, “Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall” (1 Corinthians 8.13).
Paul had “knowledge,” but was determined to act out of love. May we do the same.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage from a completely different angle than the one I have written in this article. You can hear it on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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