We are fast approaching July 1. All of us who are Canadians know that this is an important celebration, as this year marks 150 years as a nation. Some of us are preparing to be involved in one of the many celebrations that will be held across our land. And, for the most part, this will be a happy time. But all of that has got me thinking about patriotism its relationship to our faith.
Let me begin by making a confession. I was raised a Mennonite. A part of the very basics of my first theological training was the assumption of the radical distinction between the kingdoms of this world, and the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. I was taught not to love the world, nor the things in the world. I was told that conversion is a conversion from the realm of darkness into His wonderful light. The realm of darkness was considered the kingdoms of this world. Needless to say, this view precluded the idea of having a Canadian Flag in church, nor much was made of Canada Day.
As I have grown in Christ and in my understanding of the gospel, this first impression has not left me. However, I have added to that the idea of being salt and light. I have come to believe that, like Daniel, we may be living as exiles in a strange land, but while we are in the land of our exile, we have been called to “bless Babylon.” After all, the presence of God’s people in Babylon changed the nature of that empire, and even powerfully impacted the king. But in the end, Babylon remained Babylon. It never became Jerusalem.
As one of the Lord’s exiles in Canada, I reflect on my experience of living in this amazing country. Yes, it is not my home, for I long for another land. And yet, by God’s providence, I have been called to live out my days in this land. What shall we make of this?
As we celebrate 150 years as a nation, I am left to ponder. Recently a friend asked me if I was proud to be a Canadian. I pondered. I said I was thankful to be a Canadian. I was thankful for the bounty of this land. I was thankful for the freedoms I enjoy in this land, freedoms I don’t want to take for granted. I am most thankful that I am at this moment, still free to preach the gospel in this land. Furthermore, I added that I loved this land. I wanted to love it enough, so that as I lived here in my exile, my life should be one of blessing this land.
But proud? I had to ponder. Patriotism has always been a difficult concept for me. But one example: I am not proud of the abortions in this land, indeed I am grieved and ashamed.
So, how should I celebrate Canada Day? I will celebrate by thanking God for this Land, and I will earnestly pray that the walls that exist against the gospel, would no longer stand. I would want to love this land that much.