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Syria – why?


Does the Bible answer the “why?” question for conflict in Syria?

Syria had a pre-war population in 2011 of 23 million. It is estimated that now not only have over 200,000 people been killed in the war, but there are over 7.6 million people still in Syria but internally displaced and a further 4 million people registered with the United Nations as refugees hoping to escape the country.

Australia’s current population is similar to what Syria was in 2011. Just to get some understanding of the scale of this humanitarian crisis, imagine the whole population of New South Wales having to leave their homes because of war.  Then, add all the people in Western Australia and South Australia running from what was left of their homes as they would likely be injured or killed if they stayed.

When we live in such wealth and peace in Australia, it’s often difficult for us to fully understand the scale and depth of such human loss and suffering. It all seems so far removed from our everyday lives of working, playing and generally enjoying life.

But conflict is much closer to us than we often think. Conflict is not just an apt description of civil war in a far away place, it actually describes what happens in our hearts and minds when our desires differ from those we live and work with.

Whether it is on the scale of the Syrian crisis or in the everydayness of our own homes, workplaces or neighbourhoods, conflict usually results in people getting hurt – if not physically like in Syria, at the very least, emotionally and mentally.

Ken Sande defines conflict as, “a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone’s goals or desires.” (The Peacemaker, Ken Sande)

Ever since Satan deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, enticing them to disobey God by telling them by doing so they would become like God, conflict has been part and parcel of every human experience.   Even in Syria, this shocking conflict is ultimately the result of strong desires for ethno/political outcomes driving people to behave in truly heinous ways towards their fellow human beings.

But God can’t be thwarted.  He had a perfect plan of redemption, rescue and reconciliation for all of us from our conflict with Him and with each other.

God himself, as Jesus Christ, was born a human being, lived, suffered and died in our place so that the punishment from our conflict with a perfect, holy God could be fully paid. (2 Cor 5:15)

In the circumstances that we face everyday, especially in conflicts with others in our lives, God gives us opportunities to glorify Him.  Rather than glorify ourselves, he calls us to love others.   Rather than use others to satisfy our own self-centred desires, he calls us to become more and more like Jesus. Because of God’s love for and forgiveness of us, we are enabled to love and fully forgive others with whom we are in conflict – see Colossians 3:13 and these words from Ephesians 4:31 – 5:2…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.      

Next time you see a news story about the Syrian crisis or some other “far away” conflict or war, don’t just take pity or ‘switch off’, pray for peace and for God’s mercy on the whole situation.

And maybe even consider something a little closer to home – ask yourself, what opportunity is God orchestrating for you in the difficult relationships you are facing in your own life to glorify Him, serve and love others and grow to be more like Jesus Christ?