I watched a live stream from Ottawa this weekend, to see an “on the ground” perspective about the freedom convoy protests. As the video showed a line of police officers dressed in riot gear, I saw a woman standing with the aid of her walker, speaking in the direction of the police the words, “Peace, love and happiness!” Then I watched in horror as numerous officers on horseback charged into the crowd, trampling this elder and others.
The image of this scene is scarred into my mind as I process what is going on. In my work I have watched all too many times as people make a series of decisions that lead them down a path of darkness. I have watched far too many people become someone that an earlier version of themselves would not recognize or approve of. In each and every case, it is a journey of a thousand decisions, each one taking them further and further down a dark hole that isn’t only a change of scenery but causes a change to who they become. Now, as I observe my nation, I don’t recognize Canada anymore—and like so many other situations we did not arrive here overnight but through a journey of a thousand choices in our land. Now I no longer recognize the Canada that I see before me.
I have friends who wonder why more pastors aren’t condemning the blockades and the hypocrisy of preventing others from working in order to make a statement about losing their jobs. Others wonder why more pastors are not condemning the actions of our leaders, who have slandered countless people, have sowed seeds of division and hatred, and who seize power at every juncture to the point of trampling the very constitution that gives them their power in the first place—just as their officers trampled their own people. I have read statements from churches, some condemning the protestors, and others who are condemning our government.
So where do I stand on all of this? Despite all of the problems in our land, I believe it is time to trade in our words of condemnation for words of life. Despite the difficult truths I am often called upon to speak, I have never been comfortable with those who call on me to condemn others, and would rather point to the opportunity for repentance and renewal that God offers to each of us.
When God came to earth in the person of Jesus, I find it curious how little he condemned others. Now, I do believe that only God gets to define right and wrong, sin and righteousness, and that in the end all of us will stand before the Lord. Yet when Jesus spoke of his God-given mission, however, he said in John 3:17, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Despite all the sin in the world, Jesus chose a path that brought life to the sinners others wanted him to condemn. When a woman was brought before him who was caught in a sin that carried with it the death penalty, rather than publicly declaring her guilt, Jesus challenged this group of would-be executioners armed with rocks in John 8:7, saying, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Once they left and the woman was saved from certain death, he asked her who stayed to condemn her. She told him that nobody condemned her, to which Jesus replied, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
While these times in our nation are certainly historic and it feels like the very fabric of our nation is tearing apart, I do not think our world needs one more voice added to the fray shouting condemnations—certainly not from me. I do not think that would help heal the wounded hearts of our land or bring life to those in my community.
So instead of sharing words of condemnation, I would rather share words that bring life.
To paraphrase a smattering of Bible verses, we all carry the guilt of our own sins and we all fall short of what it takes to live in harmony with the God who created us. Rather than allowing us to suffer the penalty for our sins, God chose to walk the path to death in our stead. God loved his people so much that while we were still stuck in our sin, he sent Jesus to die for us. Jesus said he gave his life as a ransom for many. There is no greater love than to die for someone else, and this is the love that God poured out for all of us. Then after his death, Jesus rose from the grave in a miraculous resurrection, victorious over the power of death itself! He is the firstborn of all who will be raised to new life, and whoever accepts this incredible gift also receives the promise and the certainty of spending eternity with God in a place with no more sorrow or crying or pain.
No matter who you are—Prime Minister or protestor, politician or pauper—God offers you forgiveness, grace, peace and salvation if you would only call on the name of Jesus. There is new life to be found that gives us a hope far beyond anything Canada’s constitution could possibly offer.
There will always be more corruption to stand against. There will always be more sin causing harm to others, but there are usually too few who stand up against our instinct to fight and rage against the issues before us and who simply point to a God who responded to corruption and sin by taking the violence of this world upon himself so that we might be given a path to peace. Jesus really is the answer.
Yes, there is much that could be rightly condemned in our nation right now, and to be clear I do respect those using their unique positions to speak directly to those in power about these matters. We do stand at a critical moment in our history and nobody knows how all of this will play out. So without any knowledge of what the immediate future holds, or what the outcomes of this situation will be, I feel that my role in this is not to issue a statement of condemnation. Instead I will simply encourage all of you to choose the path that leads to life and speak words that point others to this path. I would rather encourage you to bring all of your anger and anxiety to the almighty God, and take this opportunity to allow the Lord to comfort your soul and empower you to speak life to others. We will not get anywhere if we only stand across the political aisle from one another hurling our condemnations to and fro. No. Let us rather choose to speak words to one another that bring life.
At a critical juncture in the history of ancient Israel, Moses spoke to the nation saying, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
So please, choose life!