Ten years ago, on July 1, 2011, I was awakened by the Lord with a conviction that I was to help build the Lord’s house of prayer in my city (Ottawa) and nation. I had no idea how to go about this, but the calling to be involved in praying for the restoration of our nation has not gone away. In truth, every nation is broken and in need of redemption. And so, the broken flag at the head of this post reflects my conviction – and the conviction of many – that the Canada we love is in a grievously broken condition.
I’ll be honest. I don’t really feel much like celebrating Canada Day this year. I’ll enjoy relaxing with family on that day, of course, but like many Canadians I have been deeply grieved by the recent discoveries of the burial places of hundreds of Indigenous children who died at residential schools that were operated on behalf of the government of Canada by ostensibly Christian institutions. Many Canadian Christians are especially pained not only at the reality of this sorry chapter in our nation’s history, but by the fact that these wrongs were done at the hands of people who claimed the name of Christ.
I won’t review the history here. Suffice it to say that the evidence is overwhelming. At the very least it was a policy of forced assimilation, and there is evidence that for some politicians, the goal may have been genocide. Many families and communities were torn apart, and multiple generations were deeply traumatized.
Without a doubt, there were those among the white Canadian Christian community – including missionaries – who dissented from such acts and policies. And yet, too many did not, and the critics were silenced.
How do we pray for our nation in the light of these revelations?
Perhaps we need to start with a simple Scriptural truth. All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). That includes us. Every nation, every church and every individual is in need of humility and repentance. There are no exceptions.
Thankfully, our Scriptures also assure us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), and that if we confess our sin, we can have forgiveness, and fellowship with God and our neighbour can be restored (1 John 1:7-9). And so, we can go forward in humility yet without condemnation, to do the work of reconciliation and restoration.
Nations, institutions and individuals have illusions about their own righteousness. It’s far too easy for us to say that if we had lived in those times, we would have done better. Such illusions do us no credit and don’t serve the purpose of genuine restoration. Instead of pointing fingers and attempting to expunge our history of the memory of leaders who were admittedly deeply flawed, we would do better to humble ourselves and learn to walk in justice, mercy and love in our present-day dealings.
Exactly what this will mean, in terms of concrete actions, will be different for each person. But the place to begin is with a broken and contrite heart.
One last word. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17). It was never the gospel that was the problem. I know several Indigenous leaders who are believers in Jesus, and while they grieve the painful, broken history of the colonizers’ attempts to assimilate and humiliate their people, they are profoundly grateful for the gospel.
As I was working on this blog, I read a recent newsletter from a ministry that reaches out to Muslims with the message of Jesus. It contained a most encouraging story about an Iranian from a Muslim background who came to Canada as a graduate student, met some white Canadian Christians and found Jesus. He had a beautiful testimony. No-one forced anything on him – they simply served him in love, and Jesus was revealed to another hungry heart. The gospel still bears good fruit as His people live servant lives and testify to the truth.
Until He comes, let us continue to give ourselves to walking in the light and bearing witness to the goodness of Jesus with our lives – actions as well as words.
In the words of the little-known but beautiful fourth verse of O Canada :
Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.