The past few months have been a less than glorious chapter in the annals of Canadian politics and government.
Even the most devoted Conservative partisans must be feeling a tad uncomfortable by now, as the list of unanswered questions and seeming contradictions in the PMO’s handling of the Senate expense scandal grows steadily longer. Yet our Prime Minister continues to refuse to take any personal responsibility for this sorry spectacle.
You may recall that not so many years ago, Mr. Harper came into office on a platform of accountability and integrity, after having pilloried then-Prime Minister Paul Martin and his predecessor Jean Chrétien for their involvement in the equally lamentable sponsorship scandal. Deceit, it seems, knows no party boundaries.
It is easy to grow cynical about the spectacle of moral failure in government. The evidence that such corruption exists is hard to ignore. Nor can it be tied to any one political party. Leaders of all political stripes are susceptible to the tantalizing lie that their positions of power and privilege give them the right to do whatever they want.
Yet there is another side to the ledger, one that is too often forgotten.
Yesterday morning I was privileged to attend the Ottawa Civic Prayer Breakfast. The purpose of the event was to publicly honour and pray for our municipal councillors and first responders (police, fire fighters and paramedics). We were reminded of how much pressure these people are under every day, and how much they need our prayers. We heard from a paramedic, a police officer, a fire fighter and two members of Ottawa’s city council. Several of them spoke of the reasons why they had entered their chosen line of work. All of them expressed their gratitude for the encouraging words and prayers offered on their behalf by people of faith. It was an inspiring morning.
I have no doubt that most of those who choose to serve in politics, police work or some other aspect of public service do so because they genuinely want to make a difference, to make life better for the citizens of their city or their nation. The vast majority of public servants do their best to carry out their responsibilities faithfully and at considerable personal cost year after year.
The stench of corruption that currently surrounds our federal government should be no cause for rejoicing by those who happen to support a different political party. Rather, for believers in Jesus it ought to serve as a reminder of our common human frailty (As it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one”), and a call to prayer. Those who enter politics are stepping into a pressure-cooker environment in which they are daily assaulted with powerful temptations to compromise on issues of integrity. Psalm 45, a poem in praise of godly kingship, depicts the ideal king as one who rides forth in defence of truth, humility and righteousness. These admirable character traits, so valuable in God’s sight, are keys to leading with integrity. Yet politicians, sadly, are expected by the party machine to buy into a win-at-all-costs mindset that is absolutely fatal to the servant leadership taught in Scripture and modelled by Jesus. Even people who enter politics with the best of intentions are flawed human beings who are not immune to these pressures.
As I reflect on the crisis of trust that is currently plaguing Canada’s government, I am reminded that only leaders who cultivate humility can walk in truth and righteousness. It is humility that keeps those in positions of power from becoming corrupt liars who serve only themselves. It is also humility that keeps the rest of us from pointing fingers when our leaders disappoint us. Our leaders – and we ourselves – will one day have to answer to a holy and righteous God. Though full of mercy and quick to forgive, His eyes search out the hidden motives of every heart and hold us all to account. That fact alone ought to drive us to heartfelt prayer for our nation and its leaders, for all public servants, and for ourselves. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?
Lord, teach us to pray.