So….the person I’ve been trying to rehumanize for the last few weeks is….Vladimir Putin. This has been REALLY hard.

Now don’t get me wrong. I object in the strongest possible terms to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and especially to the extreme brutality and cruelty used against Ukrainian civilians, apparently deliberately to terrorize them into submission. While I am shocked by it all, I’m not particularly surprised, having seen in some detail what Russian forces did in Syria.

And yet, when I hear friends call Putin “evil,” “a madman,” “someone there is no point negotiating with,” etc…..something seems off. Didn’t Jesus tell us repeatedly not to judge persons? Certainly we can look at what is happening in Ukraine and say that the actions we see are wrong, cruel, perhaps war crimes. But I’ve come to see that judging actions and judging persons are two different things, and the latter is up to God alone. I have to remind myself: God loves Vladimir Putin every bit as much as He loves me and I can only guess how God judges Putin, I cannot actually know. Not only that, but in a practical sense dismissing a leader as evil or a madman could close off options for diplomacy or other peaceful solutions, which is the only way wars actually end.

I can’t resist adding one of my favorite film quotes here from “The Philadelphia Story,” spoken by Katherine Hepburn: “The time to make up your mind about people is never.”

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