Because I’m writing this, as always, a few weeks before this blog is published, I don’t know where we’ll be at the start of May in terms of the present crisis in Anglo-Russian relations. At the time of writing, it’s not a happy situation. It’s arisen, of course, because of the gruesome poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury. There’s a lot that’s depressing about this story: the nature of espionage itself, including the frequent duplicity and violence, the manufacture and use of nerve agents, the warped ends that certain sorts of nationalism can serve, and so on. One of the things I find particularly depressing in the response of governments to this sort of thing is the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats. Governments expel a bunch of diplomats in the full knowledge that the other side will do the same. It all seems very pointless and undignified.
I know these things are complex, and there are rarely simple solutions, but simple revenge of any sort never achieves anything. Nothing constructive can happen without dialogue. Gunboat diplomacy is no help.
The example Jesus laid out for us is one of mercy, forgiveness, relationship, the avoidance of revenge. In vivid terms, to make his point, he said things like: “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who ill-treat you; if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other also,” and so on. In other words, the spiral of payback is flat and easy, but a dead end; the path towards a better future can be steep and windy, but it broadens out into a better vista. Pray for the leaders of the nations and for diplomats of all kinds that they will find a better way forward.