I had a remarkable experience the other day. I have been on the road for some time, preaching both in southern Ontario and in southern Manitoba. While in Manitoba, Martin and Valerie Harder graciously allowed me to stay in their home. Martin is the mayor of Winkler.
It was evening, and the Harders informed me they were attending the opening of the newly renovated Canadian Tire store in the city. As mayor, I would imagine this is standard fare for him. The store is now much larger, and for a smaller prairie community such as Winkler, the opening of such a large store is an obvious reason for both pride and thankfulness for investing into the local economy. I told the Harders I was delighted to tag along with them, wanting to witness this clear expression of local civic advancement.
What followed was entirely surprising. Indeed, I must say, I have never seen anything like it before. The official opening was still one day away, but on this day, the mayor, local MLA, police officials, fire department, employees who had worked on the building and numerous other city officials gathered to celebrate. The mayor made a wonderful speech about investing in the local economy. Clearly, it was a good day.
But then, the store manager stepped to the platform for his speech. It all started innocently enough. He thanked people who had helped him in his career. He said that when he died, he didn’t want to be remembered as the best store manager in town. He wanted to be remembered as both a loving and faithful husband to his wife and father to his children. “But, above all,” he said, “I want to be remembered as one who faithfully followed my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Not ashamed of Jesus
I was stunned. I had never heard a Canadian store manager speak so passionately and openly about his faith in Christ. I looked around at the crowd, and saw some of the people nodding their heads, while others said a quiet “Amen.” But, the event was not done. The store manager then asked his pastor to offer a prayer of blessing on the opening of the store. And that’s when the most incredible thing of the evening actually happened: I listened as the store manager dedicated the Canadian Tire store in Winkler, Manitoba, to the “glory of Jesus Christ.”
I have lived in Canada all my life. I have watched the nation becoming increasingly secular and increasingly intolerant of any public profession of Christian faith. And then, almost surreally, I watched one place of the country defy all the odds. A clearly devoted follower of Jesus made no separation between his faith in Christ and his occupation. I was overwhelmed.
Christ alone is Lord
As I now think about this event, I find myself wondering why I was surprised. What should be even remotely surprising to find someone unashamed of Jesus? Clearly, this should be the watchword for us all. Why would we be unashamed to tell a secular public gathering that we would be faithful to our employment, but that this faithfulness would never overshadow our ultimate loyalty? For if we are Christians, we belong to Christ. Neither Caesar nor our jobs command lordship. Christ alone is Lord. And yet, to have witnessed this event openly in Canada, it filled me with joy.
Perhaps this can serve as a model for all Christians. When we confess Christ as Lord in public, we are not shirking our jobs or any other secular role we possess. Indeed, we might even argue that our faithfulness to our employment is enhanced, for we work for our employers as to the Lord. But the commitment never to be ashamed of Christ, is impressive indeed.