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Some say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one contains more than a thousand…. It also makes you think about the man that would compel this type of response.

Canada is generally only bound by one thing: hockey. Our beloved sport unites more Canadians than any political party or politician ever could. This past week, however, an unprecedented response flowed into Toronto to celebrate a life. Make note: politicians simply do not see the kind of attention the late Jack Layton received (and continues to receive).

Question. Why was there such a wave of shock and despair, followed by an outpouring of condolences and love?

Make no mistake, the man certainly touched many, but the magnitude affected by his death exceeds the number of card carrying NDPers. There seems to be something more that people are mourning.

This is merely my opinion, but my sense is Layton commanded respect not solely because of the man behind the mission, but the mission itself.

Everyone likes the underdog and Jack was that underdog not because he was politically always second (or third) but because of the people he advocated for fell into the ‘little guy’ category. He was a champion for those who didn’t have a voice, a leader consumed to right wrongs and compel others to adopt his vision to do so as well.

Evidently not everyone necessarily agreed with the way he would usher in this reality (if so he would’ve won, although one can only speculate what a two-party political system would yield when left leaning voters cast the greatest % of ballots), but few would argue against every one of his pursuits.

Sure, the libertine or libertarian can do without the shackles of additional government intrusion to address the needs of the least among us (they should get a job after all….), but few would argue that fighting for women’s rights is wrong, or that gender equality has no place in our society, or that seniors don’t deserve adequate health care, or that lower taxes for families is wrong, or that children shouldn’t go hungry, or that the homeless shouldn’t have a safe place to sleep.

Social justice, health care, pensions, seniors, families, children, environment, equality, are all strong realities in our everyday lives, and were all foundational items that Jack sought to create, engage, and improve.

jack layton hope

If these items sound familiar you’re right, they are pursuits that the church engages or should engage. Jack could’ve started a church….

Maybe not a church you’d like to go to, but certainly one that Jesus would’ve attended. I’m not saying Jesus was a social democrat, but he most certainly wasn’t a capitalist, and he most certainly sought to create a movement consisting of local churches that were fundamentally engaged in righting the very same wrongs Jack spent a lifetime pursuing..

It’s also a bit sad to me because Jack Layton had to use the political arena to address and advance his social agenda. This points to two issues: 1) the political arena is more effective at endorsing and implementing positive macro change for social issues, and correlated to that 2) the church influence, engagement, and leadership in the pursuit to right wrongs in our country and communities have significantly regressed.

Where does that leave us?

Can we work towards recapturing what it means to be ‘church’? Can we fight for things that matter rather than trying to change legislations to institute moralistic behaviour?

I think there’s room for unprecedented growth for God’s church in Canada and it has nothing to do with turning Canada ‘Christian’ from the top down. No need to legislate change in hopes that rules and regulations will magically translate into vain piety.

Rather, there’s an obvious innate desire and pursuit locked deep within most Canadians to be collectively compelled to become activists, catalysts, and workers all on a mission. Just look at the response this past week for evidence of people who are in some way connected to the various causes of righting wrongs. Why? Because…..

It’s unpalatable for Canadians–to human beings–to leave the least behind.

It’s un-livable for humanity to function without hope.

It’s impossible for you to live without the pursuit and receipt of love.

These pursuits go way beyond Jack and eternally beyond where his dream could ever lead.

Rather, they are a foundational aspects of being human, and should be foundational to the church. Not church the building or the religion, but the people who are living to be like Jesus Christ.

This kind of life is one with answers to wrongs, a full dream of hope, and an unwavering love.

It’s a life that beckons us and prompts us to respond or at least ask the question:

what life are you living now?