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Simcoe Day and the Fight for Human Rights

By Mkooiman [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Secular Canadians possess a natural suspicion towards persons of the Christian faith who serve in public office. The fear is that the Christian will apply their Christian convictions into the public sphere. In many ways, this is unavoiable. And in the case of John Graves Simcoe, it should actually be celebrated.

John Graves Simcoe and Simcoe Day

During the August long weekend (August 6, 2018), Torontonians celebrate a statutory holiday in honour of a man named John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe served the crown as a member of the British parliament after a distinguished career in the British military. He became an elected MP in 1790. And in only a year after becoming an MP, Simcoe became the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada (i.e., Ontario).

John Graves Simcoe’s Christian Convictions

Simcoe was a committed Christian and announced that his priority as Lieutenant Governor would be to uphold the dignity and the freedom of all humans in Upper Canada, regardless of race or ethnicity. In his address to the Legislative Assembly, Simcoe tied his Christian convictions to his abhorrence of slavery with this comment: “The principles of the British Constitution do not admit of that slavery which Christianity condemns. The moment I assume the Government of Upper Canada under no modification will I assent to a law that discriminates by dishonest policy between natives of Africa, America, or Europe.”

Upper Canada’s “Act Against Slavery”

And that is exactly what he did. Under John Graves Simcoe’s leadership, led by his strong Christian convictions, Upper Canada (Ontario) was the first colony in the entire British Empire to ever pass an “Act Against Slavery” which became law in 1793. By 1810 there were no slaves in Upper Canada. It would not be until 1834, when slavery would be abolished throughout the remainder of the British Empire.

Thanking God for Christians with Conviction

On Monday, August 6, 2018, in Ontario, we celebrate the life and legacy of John Graves Simcoe, a Christian who chose to blatantly mix his Christian convictions with his politics. And  how grateful we ought to be that he did. Simcoe was a champion of human rights. Simcoe understood that the supreme Christian ethic of love necessarily extended to all humans even those whom the rest of the world did not acknowledge as deserving human rights. As Ontarians enjoy Simcoe holiday thank God for those with Christian conviction and courage who used their political office to make our world a much, better place. Happy Simcoe Day! Keep fighting for human rights for all humans!

Encouraging Christians in Public Office

Simcoe was certainly not the only Christian to occupy a public office in Canada. Today, there are many others. As you have the opportunity, pray for those whom God has called to occupy public spheres of influence. Pray that their decisions and those of their colleagues would create an environment wherein God’s people may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:12). This would obviously include public officials too. A public official who is free to pursue godliness and holiness is an instrument who can be used mightily in the hands of Jesus.

A second way to encourage a Christian in public office is to write them an encouraging letter, indicating your common unity with them. Using resources like Ottawa’s Christian embassy can help you identify brothers and sisters in Christ who are serving in public office.

A third way to encourage Christians in public office is by setting a platform for them which demonstrates the transformative power of the gospel.  This platform involves showing due respect to all public officials—even those with whom we might disagree. Those transformed by the gospel will necessarily concern themselves with public policies, but they will never disrespect, ridicule or slander a person made in God’s image, for whom Christ shed his blood. Writing to persecuted Christians, the apostle Peter says, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17).

You can erect a platform to showcase the transformative power of the gospel by speaking or writing about public officials honourably—whether in public or in private. While those outside of Christ may verbally disrespect those in authority, our platform, as those who are in Christ, calls us to “Let[ our] speech always be gracious…” (Colossians 4:6). This platform is built on the foundation of a conscious recognition that the authority which public officials possess has been “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). If we who are Christ speak graciously about others, including elected officials, we enable and equip Christian politicians to be a means of God’s grace in their prescribed jurisdiction because they will carry with them the reputation of being gracious.

Understandably, our elected officials will make decisions and policies which oppose Jesus Christ and his rule and reign. At those times, we need to speak with both grace and truth. However, as children of God, our speech must demonstrate love, honour and respect – both towards our own and to those outside of our circles.  Imagine with me a nation wherein Christians are known for their allegiance to King Jesus and their respect for others. Imagine with me a nation wherein the natural bent of the human heart towards our elected officials was one of gratitude instead of grumbling. That culture would certainly be a good and productive platform for Christians in public office. Ask God, that by His Holy Spirit, our nation would be transformed beginning within his family.