by David Ritz
The idea of citizenship is something that I have contemplated a good deal since feeling called to Quebec. Before I get into the why, allow me to explain the context.
I grew up in Medicine Hat, Alberta, (a modest prairie city of about 50 000-60 000). Like most Canadians I had to take French in grades 5-6. I could not wait till grade 7 when I no longer had to take French. I knew of one French-Canadian, and I had absolutely zero interest in going to Quebec.
I was in high school during the 1995 referendum, when Quebec voted about leaving Canada. Like most Anglophone Canadians I was angry that this was even a question. I participate in all the jokes of wanting to see Quebec leave if they wanted to so bad. I did not understand at all the issues facing the Quebecois people, nor did I care.
My resentment towards Quebec just grew as the days went on. I had absolutely no desire to move there. Fast forward to Bible College in the fall of ’05, I was praying and seeking about where God wanted me to do an internship for my degree. All I knew is that I wanted to have an experience in a post-modern church in an urban context.
God has a funny way of smashing our idols. My idolatry of loyalty to country was about to be destroyed. I learned in a chapel session that there were 250 000 university students in the downtown core of Montreal. An impressive number for sure, but even more staggering was the fact that 0.5% of Quebecois claim to be “born-again believers”. I was stunned this was in my own country, my own backyard.
I slowly began to learn that in the ‘70’s a thing called the “Silent Revolution” happened in Quebec where there was a huge exodus from the Catholic Church, which also turned towards a more secular identity.
As I began to work in Quebec, God began to change my heart. I grew from a deep resentment and anger towards French-Canadians to a deep love and concern.
What does citizenship mean?
Fast forward to today. Shortly after moving here, the Parti Quebecois introduced a Bill that would seek a more “secular identity”, banning religious wear. Apparently underneath it all some have speculated that this could be a ploy to bring Quebec back to a referendum. My initial reaction was, forget this, let’s move at the very least to Ontario. This has also been the reaction of some Anglophones already living here. But through my wife, God reminded me that He called me here.
Christians seem to be rather fickle people. Excited to get behind government when it is conservatives in power, and it seems as though they have a carte blanche to do what they want. When it is a Liberal party in charge, nothing they can do is right. Sometimes they are portrayed as being one step above Satan.
This made me question what is a follower of Jesus to do in this day and age? I highly doubt that believers have been a good witness to any of the political leaders as we are highly critical, and sometimes loudly critical. We were criticism loudly and proudly as though we are called to make sure to let everyone know how they are doing it wrong.
God began to remind me that my citizenship does not lie here (Eph 2:19; Philip 3:20).
What does it mean if my citizenship is not here but in heaven? It means that government rules and regulations are nothing. I am all of a sudden free from the burden of protest, anger, fear, and frustration.
Let’s face it, our society is sick of all the moral talk and political rhetoric from the church, most people would not be upset to see tax benefits, and other governmental rights removed from “religious organizations”. It could happen, and then what? Will we angrily storm Parliament demanding our rights?
Two moments since I have moved back to Quebec that God has profoundly used to teach me why it is so important to see myself as a citizen of heaven before I am a citizen of Canada, and Alberta. The first moment happened when we were praying about the Bill to remove religious artifacts from the public sector. Someone prayed sincerely and deeply for Pauline Marois. It was in that moment that I realized I had prayed more for the bill to be struck down instead of for Marois’ salvation. Then it happened again a month later that we began praying for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois, and Marois.
I realized that I would rather pray that the PQ would be removed from government, rather then praying for something infinitely more important, the salvation for those in the PQ government. God has smashed the idol of citizenship in my heart.
1 Timothy 2:1-4, “First of all, the, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Ouch! Remember who was in charge during Paul’s life? Nero, a tyrant who liked to use Christians as torches for his garden party. Paul recognized that Jesus desires that “all men” that’s everyone, Obama included.
I am better at a place (not at all perfect, but working on speaking Gospel truth to my heart), to know that no matter who is in government, I pray for the individuals. What this frees me for? No matter who I vote, and who gets in, I pray just as fervently. I know that God is in charge, even if in Canada (or USA for that matter) if the government outright outlaws Christianity, God is still sovereign. No matter what party or leader is in charge, God loves them as deeply as He does the opposition, as deeply as He loves me.
So now, because my citizenship is in heaven, I learn French to remove any cultural barriers to the Gospel, I pray for the PQ and Pauline Marois. I stay in the province that God has called me to no matter what kind of legislature is passed. I seek the welfare of the place that God has called me (Jeremiah 29:7).
On a side note, it was exciting to watch the winter Olympics this year, and now I am proudly from the province that sent the most medal winning athletes. Fickle indeed…