“Even if they try to kill you, you develop the inner conviction that there are some things so precious, so eternally true that they are worth dying for…. If you’ve got nothing worth dying for, you’ve got nothing worth living for.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The news has been filled with stories of people in Ukraine who have found something worth dying for. Standing up to the unspeakable cruelty unleashed by the Russian government, they have shown the world that, for many of them, freedom is so precious, so eternally true that it is worth dying for. And while so many of us have been inspired by their courage, maybe we have also been a bit challenged by it—challenged to consider what we would be willing to die for. That is, what is so precious to us, so eternally true that it makes life worth living?
That seems to me to be a very Lenten question. Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter when Christians are encouraged to focus on the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, fasting, trying to determine what was worth dying for. And when the period was over, Jesus emerged with an answer. The point of his life was “to bring good news to the poor…, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18,19).
What is so precious to you, so eternally true that you would be willing to die for it? Or, put more positively, what are you living for? That is a central question of Lent, it seems to me.
It is impossible to know what the coming days and weeks will bring in Ukraine except that the experts expect that things will get darker and uglier as the Russian government will show the world yet again that human depravity has no bottom and evil recognizes no boundaries. However, the Ukrainians have been here before. The Soviet Union ruled over them for over 70 years with an iron fist, trying to stamp out their language, their culture, their religion. They failed as Ukrainians quietly defied them, making pysanky—those beautifully decorated Easter eggs that the Soviets outlawed. They became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance—a sign of hope that anything so precious and beautiful that it is worth dying for will never really die but will live on—that light shines in the darkness and, at least so far, the darkness has not overcome it.
Pastor Don Steele