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Although it is no longer “breaking news,” I am sure many are aware of the situation in my state, Manipur. Things have remained unstable for much too long, many lives have been lost, and a lot of people have become homeless. For the past many Sundays, many churches in the conflict-affected areas haven’t been able to conduct the Lord’s Day Worship in their church buildings (our church included), and we cannot say how long this will go on. As expected, the common man and daily-wage workers are the most affected group by the ongoing conflict. All of the suffering is real and heartbreaking to witness, yet what breaks my heart the most is that the glorious name of Christ is being defamed by the various ungodly deeds of so many who call themselves “Christian.” I firmly believe that if those who confess to know and believe the gospel would act like Christ and live out their confession of faith, the problem wouldn’t be so dire. Even as I am writing this article, the situation in my state is still very uncertain! In this article, I outline the cause and the cost of the conflict, offer what I believe to be the cure, and end with a call to action.
There are various opinions on what has caused the present conflict. All of the opinions fall under either socio-political or geographical categories. Even though there may be truth in some of the opinions, I do not believe the root cause is primarily from the above-mentioned categories. Rather, I believe that the root cause of the conflict is what the Bible calls “sin.” Sin has blinded, bounded, and built its kingdom of selfish ambitions and jealousy in the hearts of many. In one sense, there is nothing that should surprise Christians with what has happened because this is what sin always does. For sin is subtle, sudden, and deadly. It corrupts and corrodes the hearts of man. And the result is separation – from God and the people He has placed around us, and eventual destruction. James, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, told believers the cause of quarrels and fights among them: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).
The same can be said about the present conflict in my state. The blindness that sin causes has diminished the value and beauty of fellow men who are created in the image of God. This diminished honour has enabled many to raise their heavy hands to eliminate and destroy their fellow men. Very sadly, the same is true for many who professed to be a “Christian.” Sin of the “here and now” has blinded their eyes that they now cannot see the glory of God that is at stake, and could not count the cost of a lost soul who’d succumb to death without Christ. To them, heaven and the promised eternal joy and glory to those who love God seem so dull in comparison with the present temporal earthly gains. Claiming to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:22).
The ongoing conflict has been and is creating a lamentable cost. Houses are being burned and looted. Many precious lives have been lost, leading to many becoming orphans, widows, widowers, and childless. Anxiety and trauma have hit many, mostly women and children. Many continue to live with uncertainty about their lives. Poverty has hit those who are daily-wage labourers hard. Various health issues have arisen in conflict-affected areas because of poor medical facilities, especially for displaced persons. Even though schools are open, many parents are uncertain about the safety of their children. In addition to all of these is the loss of trust and interest between the involved communities resulting in fierce enmity. To many, there is no respect for the lives and properties of people of another community which are regarded as the “enemy.” “An eye for an eye, a life for a life, blood for blood” is the current philosophy of most people. All of these are fuelled even more by lies, rumours, and false narratives. These are the real costs of the present conflict.
It makes sense, to some extent, if these are being carried along by those who do not know the God of the Bible and have nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I am shocked to see people who profess to know Christ and the gospel being involved in all that is ungodly and which is sub-Christian! It does not make any sense whatsoever! But all the ungodly acts of the professing “Christians” during this conflict have caused much harm to the glorious name of Christ! Look at what we have done to the name of Christ by our ungodly acts! There is now even more hatred towards Christ among the non-believers. To many of them, Christianity is abominable. We who profess to know Christ have to remind ourselves that every sin and ungodly act of ours before the watching world profane God’s name and make our profession and witness weightless. This is certainly not how things should be, and we ought to repent of our foolish ways and actions for the sake of the glory of God and the salvation of the lost. May we not sin in such a way that our lives become stumbling blocks before the host of people who do not know God.
Indeed, the present conflict costs a weighty loss physically, materially, and emotionally. But it also has a weightier loss in bringing shame to the glorious name of Christ and the glory of God before the watching unbelieving world. Even though we truly are and should have concern for the first, the latter should cause more concern to us as people who have been saved to be the display of God’s glory by our good works (Matt. 5:16). Even though some of us have sinned against God during this conflict, there is always room for mercy and grace if we turn away from our foolish sins to Him who is gracious and merciful.
As the cause of the ongoing conflict is fundamentally theological, so is the cure. The sociopolitical, and geographical solution may indeed help in solving the conflict in some ways, but we know as Christians that all of these “solutions” will be temporal. They won’t last long. But Christians need not react as if there is no hope for a long-lasting solution. The pains and losses and tears are real, the lives of many dear ones have been lost, and lines of division and hostility have been drawn between communities, but in spite of all of this, there is hope for a solution that is long-lasting, nay, eternal. The only true and lasting solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
To think that the broken trust, the separation, and the wall of enmity, are beyond repair is to underestimate the gospel of Jesus Christ and what it has done in our lives. Once we were enemies of God, our trust was not in our Creator but in the world, the flesh, and the devil, and our sin separated us from God. Humanly speaking, our condition was indeed beyond repair. None of us could reconcile ourselves to this God. None of us were pleasing enough to Him to appease His holy wrath upon us because of our sins. We lived a God-less, hopeless life – a life that was far from God and His covenant promises. We were justly the objects of God’s wrath. And that is the real picture of what separation beyond repair looks like. But we know that our story doesn’t end there. Amidst our story of damnation comes the story of redemption through Christ Jesus our Lord! With Him, God raised us and seated us with Him (Eph. 2:6), through Him our unrepairable separation ended and He brought us near to God (v.13). In Him we became God’s workmanship (v.10), by grace we are saved and saved eternally.
This is what Christ has done for us concerning our relationship with God when we put our trust in Him. Each one of us who professes to be a Christian knows this, don’t we? And if we know this glorious truth, we also know how we ought to live our lives here and now in the light of what God has done for us. Our reconciliation with God through Christ should result in our reconciliation with our fellow Brothers and Sisters, no matter which community they belong to. The Apostle Paul, in the same chapter of Ephesians, talked about Christ breaking down the dividing wall of enmity between two different groups of people namely the Jews and the Gentiles, in His Body creating one new man for Himself (v.14-15). Don’t overlook the phrase, “one new man”. That is who a Christian is. That is his new identity – a blood-bought identity. The old identity makes no difference. Christians are no longer defined by our earthly identity – neither by what we do nor by the community we belong to, but by our heavenly identity.
If you believe this to be true, can you say that as “one new man” the separation between the communities by the conflict is beyond repair? Will you as someone who doesn't deserve to be reconciled with God but is now reconciled through Christ, have a problem in preaching the Gospel of reconciliation to an unbeliever of the opposite community? Will you as someone who has experienced the forgiveness of your Saviour not embrace a person from another community who is a believer as your true brother or sister? Will you have a problem dining with them? Will you have a problem worshipping God under the same roof? Will you let your ethnic identity trump your heavenly identity?
This is the only cure that will continue for eternity. And because of the profession of our faith in Christ, Christians should focus our attention on this sure and certain cure. I am not saying that this will be easy. But we know and it will be proved one day that all our efforts for living our lives as a new man in Christ amidst the conflict are worth all the loss, mockery, shame, and even death we might get from the people around us.
Lastly, here is the call that I want to humbly make to all who profess to know Christ.
Know that Vengeance belongs to God, not to you.
You must have seen posts on social media (some of which were fake) that made your blood boil. You also might have witnessed trampled justice. All of these might lead you to decide to take matters into your own hands. But remember that as Christians we are to heed the word of our God in Romans 12:19, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” “Cease from anger and forsake wrath,” says David, “Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing” (Ps. 37:8). And with this comes my next call:
Wait upon the Lord while maintaining your peace
This is the last thing you could think of, considering the kinds of news you are exposed to during times like this. But a Christian is a person whose life is defined by waiting upon the Lord. David in Psalm 37 says, “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him,” and he gives a good reason to wait upon the Lord: “For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land” (v.9). Your life of waiting upon the Lord faithfully while maintaining your peace can be done by keeping yourself from being exposed to news that will arise ungodly emotions and actions, and keeping yourself from pouring out your anger through posting negative posts on social media platforms.
Remind yourself and others of the glorious truth of the Gospel
What can be more helpful to you in waiting upon the Lord than reminding yourself of the glorious truth of the gospel? Remember your previous state of sin and ungodliness. Remember how God has redeemed you from that pit by His gracious hands. Remember the goodness of God which you have tasted while you were a hell-deserving enemy of God. Remember the righteous demands of the gospel that saved you from sin. Remind yourself of all this and then also remind your circle of influence. You can do this through phone calls, or conversations over tea. May the gospel of Jesus Christ permeate both your mind and also all your speech.
Comfort those who need comfort by pointing them to Christ
Many are suffering, and you might know some or many of them personally. If you have the resources, comfort them with their material needs. Talk to your pastor and your church and find ways to help them. But do not end there, also comfort them by pointing them to Christ. If a believer has experienced any kind of loss, remind them of their richness in Christ. Lovingly tell them of the imperishable joy that God has promised for those who love Him. Tell them that God’s promise of glory is more abundant than any sort of loss we experience on earth. Encourage them by pointing to what they have – God Himself. And if a non-believer is suffering, comfort him by telling him about the eternal imperishable hope that is found only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which leads me to the next call:
Preach the Gospel
If you and I believe that the only cure to this conflict is the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should preach it faithfully to our own and to those who are from the opposite community. I know that in such trying and hard times, we need to be wise, , but this is the only weapon we have against the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Only the gospel promises eternal and imperishable hope. It is only the gospel that can bring reconciliation with God and with our fellow men. It is only the gospel that tells us there is so much to gain in knowing Christ even when we lose all that can be lost. It is the gospel that can make a spiritually poor soul rich in the sight of God. It is only the gospel that changes everything. May we find many ways to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ!
This is the Christians' best and first resort in any circumstance. Why should we be dismayed when the throne room of our heavenly Father is wide open for us? Not only do we have access to His throne room, but also through Christ, we have our Father’s ear wide open to hear His children’s cry! So, dear Christian, pray! Despite your opinions on politics, Scripture commands Christians to pray for our rulers and leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Pray that the Lord will give them wisdom and the right mind to handle the present conflict justly. Pray that the Lord will save the lost. Pray for the Lord’s providence for those who are suffering and in need of daily shelter, food, and clothing. Pray that the Lord, through His intervention, will bring an end to this conflict. Pray that the Lord will use what has happened to further His Gospel ministry and that His name will be made great among the people of Manipur. Pray that the Lord will help believers to stand firm in their faith. Pray that the church of Christ in times like this will be what she ought to be — the pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Pray that in all of this, God will be glorified.
May the Spirit of God use His churches in Manipur to bring glory and greatness to the name that is worthy of all praise, honour, and worship – the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.