Things do not look good for Christians in Canada. Secularism grows in its influence (e.g., the Law Society of Upper Canada). Christian moral ethics are more and more on the periphery of our culture. And our government is introducing bills and making policies that appear to threaten several of the freedoms Christians take for granted (such as applying for grant money, making decisions according to conscience, being a confessing Christian in the workplace, etc.). However, though these developments promise to make things difficult and make us uncomfortable, there are many reasons to find hope and joy in them.
I do not mean to say that we will find hope and joy in these things changing but that we can find hope as they remain active and similar legislation is created. I see three reasons for Christian hope: 1) a growing anti-Christian (or more generally anti-religious) bent in our government should force us to remember who we are, exiles in a foreign land (e.g., Heb. 11:8-16, 12:18-28, 13:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:1; 2 Pet. 2:11); 2) it should remind us that is our job, not the government’s, to fund the work of ministry; 3) and it does not change the fact that it is God who ensures the survival and growth of his church.
1. We Have Hope as Exiles in a Foreign Land
As Christians, no nation is our home; we are citizens of a heavenly city. As such, we are sojourners, strangers, in the countries—in the World—we inhabit. Because of this, Jesus promises that the world will hate us (John 15:18-25; cf. 1 John 3:13). The influence of the Gospel in shaping western culture for 2000 years has, for good and for ill, made it easy to forget this truth. There has been enough resemblance between the lands of our sojourning and our true home that we have forgotten this is not God’s country.
The hardening of our governments against God should awaken us again to this truth. That God intended for us to be sojourners should give us hope: though the changes will surely affect us, nothing our government does will change the fact that we live not for Canada but a heavenly city to which we will soon arrive.
2. We Have Hope in God’s Provision through His People
God has provided through the Canadian government many financial provisions that have made it easier for the local church to fulfill its mandate. The loss of the grant program (and maybe tax breaks one day) will surely be felt, yet such a loss must remind us of a truth. The truth is that government money is only one means God uses to fulfill His mission; He promises to provide for His people. This promise is not dependent on our government’s support or permission.
What we may have forgotten is that the primary way God has ordained to provide the resources necessary for the spreading of the Gospel is His people. Christians are called to be a giving people; with the loss of government support, we may be forced—hopefully we will be forced—to put our money where our mouth is (consider Eph. 4:28, 1 Tim. 5:17-18, and this article). What does it say about our generosity and devotion to God’s mission that the loss of government funding threatens the Church’s mission? May this be the means that God uses to wake the church to its true priorities!
3. We Have Hope in God’s Promise to Complete His Work
Lastly, let us not forget that government permission is not necessary for the survival and growth of the Church. The Church did not flounder but prospered under Jewish and Roman persecution; the Church grew amazingly in China when it was forced underground. And the Church is growing continually in Iran, a highly persecuted nation.
Jesus will not allow his Church to languish under a hostile government; He will use that hostility only to grow it. For one, we will truly have to count the cost of following Jesus (cf. Luke 9:23-26). The Church will also shine forth even more distinctly as the culture moves farther and farther away from it (Matt. 5:14-16). Our comforts will be lost, yes. But maybe in that we will find the freedom to pursue the kingdom and its righteousness, to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
There is surely a sense in which we do not want these trends to continue! Our position in society for many years has had its benefits—and we are creatures that love our comfort. But if our hope is truly in the city that is to come, and we value heavenly treasure more than earthly pleasure, there is much hope to be found as society turns against us—whether that be tomorrow or in 100 years.