I work at refraining from making comments that might be construed as being political in nature. Nothing should be allowed to cloud the purity and urgency of the Gospel's message for the world around me… especially for people I might not agree with in less important matters. We all need the love of God to fill our hearts through what was accomplished for us on the cross of Calvary. It’s the only way we’ll look at fellow humans the way we should.
But sometimes, current events gift us with opportunities to remember how human history has always gone. I can find myself in tears over humanitarian crises and the drumbeats of war. Such is the case now with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Among the very limited selection of books on my shelf, on the same row with my Solzhenitsyn collection, is a book called The Harvest of Sorrow. It brings to light a forgotten chapter in the dark history of Stalin’s brutality. His dekulakization1 and collectivization of the peasantry was carried out roughly from the late 1920’s into the 1930’s. It was insanity and utter brutality on steroids. The death toll ran in the millions.
In this context, Stalin attempted to fence in the Ukrainian people and starve them to death. They would have been targeted anyway because they had already been categorized as peasant farmers. But in addition to that, they were Ukrainian. Whether farmers or not, they still qualified for extermination.
The task of the historian is the notoriously difficult one of trying to represent clearly and truly in a few hundred pages events which cover years of time and nations of men and women. We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book.2
What is happening today does not come out of nowhere… it’s not new. Despotism, godlessness, inhumanity, racism, greed and addiction to power all run deeply through the course of human history. Nothing guarantees that such happenings will not continue. None of it is logical. None of it makes sense… unless we accept what the Bible says about our world.
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19, ESV)
Literally, as in Spanish, “evil one” means “malignant one” or “malicious one”—like a pervasive, mortal cancer. There is an evil spirit at work. There is a blindness only lifted by the liberating power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Despots share some things in common. For starters, they’re not very bright. Stalin’s daughter was quoted as saying:
“He was a very simple man. Very rude. Very cruel,” she said. “He broke my life.”3
Despots lack originality in the reasons they give for their particular flavor of violent expansionism. Their levels of sociopathy and narcissism leave them dead of soul and heart. Of course they don’t care about how much blood will flow.
I think they’re actually convinced they will win the day. Yet they remain blind to what history will later demonstrate about them every time. They become one more dreary, worthless cog in the wheel of history… one more pathetic example of how violence only breeds more violence… and how warped ideas of national identity always come back to bite us.
Their spiritual blindness extends to a belligerent unwillingness to face their delusional self-importance for what it is.
Newsflash for the incorrigible Putins in our world: “You’re goin’ down…!”
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Psalms 146:3-4 (ESV)
As is always the case, our hands are weak. If we try to trust people in leadership, they will disappoint and embarrass us every time. Call Putin a genius? Threaten him with sanctions? I guess we really don’t learn much from history, do we?
Thank God, the story doesn’t end here. In fact, it’s barely gotten started. Just as my eternal salvation was secured by the vicarious atonement of the Son of God on Calvary, so is my eternal life in his presence confirmed in his bodily resurrection from the grave.
In his resurrection is the blessed assurance of his final victory over death, the grave, and this world of tribulation we are passing through now. When he returns, retribution and making every crooked path straight will be the order of the day.
What a glorious day that will be…!
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11, ESV)
Dekulakization: The Soviet campaign of political repressions, including arrests, deportations, or executions of millions of kulaks (prosperous peasants) and their families in the 1929–1932 period of the first five-year plan…the Soviet government portrayed kulaks as class enemies of the USSR.
The Harvest of Sorrow -Soviet Collectivization and the Terror—Famine, by Robert Conquest, Oxford University Press. 1986. P. 3.