Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, has died after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
As I observed Jack Layton over the past several election campaigns, my respect for him grew with each campaign. He was an effective campaigner and a man who seemed to be able to connect with both English and French speaking Canadians. He was also a man with an indomitable spirit, who demonstrated a great deal of courage and optimism in his struggle with cancer.
Tommy Douglas (the NDP’s founding leader) was a man whose political values were grounded in Scripture. Sadly, as the party developed it seemed to move farther away from its Biblical roots, defining justice more in ideological terms than Biblical ones. Consequently, I found myself lamenting the party’s stand on some issues even as I was grateful for its contribution on others. Still, since this is a time for appreciation rather than critique, let me say that even though I did not vote for the NDP in the recent federal election, I concurred with Jack’s passionate support for the concerns of the elderly and the economically vulnerable. I was surprised and pleased to learn a few months ago that Jack grew up in a family that had an active church involvement, and that his concern for social justice stemmed from a sense of being called by God.
When leaders or public figures die, especially when their lives seem to be cut short sooner than we expect, it raises all kinds of questions for us. Is God good? Why did this happen? Where is our hope? Am I next?
Just as Jack Layton did, all of us have hopes and dreams for our own lives and families. We also have hopes and dreams for our community, our nation and the world. Sometimes those hopes seem to get cut off or crushed. I don’t know all that is going to happen to me in the months and years to come. Neither do you. But I do know that if my confidence is fixed on Jesus, ultimately my hope will not be cut off, because I will share in His resurrection life in a world made new.
This morning, after hearing the news of Jack’s death, I found myself re-reading these words from the Book of Psalms
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.
In the end, our hope cannot be in any political leader. The hope of the earth is Jesus the Messiah, who was crucified for us and raised again, and whose coming again in glory we await. Scripture declares that He is the one who will establish justice and righteousness on the earth.
So I will thank God for everything that was good in Jack Layton’s life, leave the final assessment of his life in the hands of God, and take this event as a reminder to live my life with my hope set on Jesus, who was, and is, and is to come, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and who is sovereign over the kings of the earth (Rev 1:4-8).