Yesterday was Canada Day. As I was out walking the dog, a young man on the street wished me a Happy Canada Day. I returned the greeting, of course, but it got me thinking. What is Canada Day really all about? Later on that day, we watched the festivities on Parliament Hill from the comfort of our living room, on high definition TV. I was particularly struck by the words of the song Today I’m Going to Try and Change the World, by Scottish-born country singer Johnny Reid, whose family immigrated to Canada when he was fifteen years old. His song spoke about the impact of daily choices on those around us, and I found it inspiring. That evening, Marion and I went to sit by the Ottawa River in our favourite spot for viewing the fireworks on Parliament Hill. The atmosphere on the streets was that of a gigantic party. People were calling “Happy Canada Day” to each other. We enjoyed the festive atmosphere, but I couldn’t help wondering what those words really meant to the revellers. Is Canada Day just an excuse for a good party, or is it more than that? On Canada Day, Canadians are passionate about their country – but what about the rest of the time? Do we exhibit the true patriot love of which our national anthem speaks?
The founders of our nation gave Canada its name – the Dominion of Canada – based on a promise from God which is inscribed on the stones of our Parliament Buildings. Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that not only Israel, but every nation on earth – including Canada – has been allotted its land by God, and has a specific purpose in God’s plan for the world. Christians ought to be enthusiastic patriots, like singer Johnny Reid – people who are passionate about making our country a better place and seeing it fulfil its God-given destiny. Yet I find that many Canadians – including Christians – often display a cynical, negative attitude towards our country and its government, and it’s all too easy to let ourselves be subtly influenced by this prevailing negativity. I find that I have to remind myself regularly of the Scriptural admonitions to honour and pray for our nation’s leaders, and to seek the well-being of the land in which God has placed me.
Last week Marion and I had an inspiring, first-hand reminder of what true patriot love looks like. We were privileged to spend a few hours with Victor Wilson, a young man from Nigeria who came to Canada three years ago because of threats to his personal safety in his homeland. As Marion and I listened to Victor talk about his homeland, his dreams and visions, I was inspired and moved by his love for his people, his story of overcoming adversity, and his desire to see his country blessed. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a number of African Christians over the past few years – brothers and sisters from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe. When Canadians think of Africa, it seems all we think of is problems, but most of the African Christians I have met are full of hope despite the many challenges faced by most of the nations in Africa. Their hope comes from their lively confidence in God. Victor is no exception. He had been an evangelist in his native land before coming to Canada three years ago. Although he has now made his home here, Victor told us of his conviction that God was calling him to get involved in the political process in his homeland, so that the wealth of Nigeria might be shared by all its people. He spoke with heartfelt passion about his country and its potential, and told us with real excitement of the recent ascent to power of a new President, Goodluck Jonathan, a godly man who is determined to put an end to the corruption that has kept Nigeria’s people in poverty despite the nation’s wealth of natural resources.
Victor’s passion to see his nation blessed was a true inspiration. I’ve asked him to do me and my readers the favour of using my blog as a vehicle to talk about his vision for Nigeria and his desire to serve God by working for transformation in his homeland, and he’s promised to do this in an upcoming post. In the meantime, let me encourage you to throw off the cynicism and negativity that is so common among Canadians, and let God work into your heart a passion to see spiritual, economic, political and moral transformation in your neighbourhood, in your city or town, and in our nation of Canada. As believers in Jesus and heirs of the faith of Abraham, we know that we are blessed to be a blessing. The first followers of Christ were marked by a joyous exuberant faith and a way of life that made them visibly different than the world around them. Although they were often persecuted, their faith and their way of life had an undeniable attraction for people who were looking for reality. As a result, even though they had very little political power and were frequently persecuted, within a couple of centuries the Christian faith had infiltrated the Roman Empire and had a huge influence on society. We have different gifts and different opportunities, and we aren’t all called to do exactly the same things, but all believers in Jesus are called to throw off passivity and be influencers, like the salt that preserves food and adds flavour, and the light that dispels darkness. It may be “cool” to be cynical, but it’s godly to be enthusiastic and passionate about change. Hearing Johnny Reid sing about changing the world, and listening to Victor Wilson talk about his vision for his homeland, has renewed my determination to love my country with true patriot love. How about you?