The story of grace is a true story of unconditional love and forgiveness written by God, with Himself as the protagonist. It is a story of great patience; a story of everlasting mercy; a story of sacrifice. Grace is God’ amazing, unconamazing, unconditional and underserved love which He pours out by the second on anyone who desires to be loved; not because they’re so great that they deserve to be loved, but on the contrary, because they know they’ve done so many wrongs and made so many mistakes in their lives that they don’t feel they deserve the love and mercy which they so desperately crave. Every human being hungers for love and mercy.
As stubborn, annoying and uncouth as Mayor Ford has repeatedly shown himself to be, I believe in my heart he wants and needs grace, love and mercy from the people of Toronto, and from his fellow Canadians for that matter.
Rob Ford was not my candidate for the highest political office in the City of Toronto. Personally, I’d prefer someone more polished and statesman-like. I still believe that we ought to aspire to be greater than we are, so that we can accomplish more than our pedigree and build a higher platform upon which our children can build the foundation for our collective destiny. This sense that we ought to do more neither begins nor ends with balancing budgets and winning elections, but transcends the natural proclivities of human beings which are mostly confined to self-satisfaction and frequently in indulgence. It reaches rather, to the realm of the supernatural, where inspirations for great thought and insight reside; from where the hand of God orchestrates the workings of the universe.
However, here we are, in one of the greatest cities in the world, run by a mayor who has blatantly lied to his constituents for months over several serious allegations, then finally, reluctantly and grudgingly confessing to the accusations against him. At the time of writing this article, new allegations surface with exasperating frequency – from public drunkenness to sleeping with prostitutes, walking lock-step with the infamous use of crack cocaine, among others.
I’m not fond of politics, ancient and powerful the institution that it is. It seems to me that to be a successful politician one must often lie, connive and backstab even some with whom they share a common doctrine. Politics regularly lives up to its old adage of being a dirty business, with few of its players living up to their very own creed. The little attention I gave to politics was often directed to the Americans. However that may have forever changed thanks to Mayor Rob Ford and his shenanigans. I laughed at the day he became mayor of Toronto. I snickered every time something new surfaced about his behaviour, from the time he was caught reading while driving to showing his middle finger at a streetcar operator whose only mistake was doing his job dutifully.
I lamented at the poor example he was being to the youth of our beautiful city and how low he had brought the bar of good morals and ethics in public life. I wanted him out of office. Not because of poor performance of his duties as the mayor of Toronto, but because his pattern of behaviour has the potential to establish a moral culture in City Hall that can drag this great city into chaos and corruption, even while he has done a great job of delivering on his election promises.
So what is all this talk about grace, love and forgiveness, if at the end of the day Rob Ford must leave office? Let me begin by saying what grace is not – grace is neither condolence nor subservience. To extend grace is not to condone or support misbehaviour. Enough said.
This is what grace is – to extend love and mercy to a person, when they don’t deserve those considerations. This is where this story really begins. As I write, reverberations of melancholia continue to sweep the globe at the news of the death of Nelson Mandela, “A man of uncommon grace and compassion”, according to President Bill Clinton. Raised by the Thembu Royal Family, Mandela studied and became a lawyer. Unlike most of his countrymen, he had the opportunity to carve a relatively good life for himself, even in the midst of the brutality of apartheid which existed in South Africa at the time. He chose rather, to become a voice for his people, the exploited and disenfranchised black majority of South Africa. This tall, athletic, well- ducated man with great oratory skills and a passion for justice and equality became a threat to the apartheid government and was branded enemy number one. It wasn’t long before he was arrested and imprisoned for life with hard labour. Mandela’s crime? Demanding that his people and himself to be treated as human beings, with respect and equality.
The cries for Mandela’s release were at first faint and barely discernible. However over the years they grew to a roar and 27 years after being first wrongfully imprisoned, the South African champion for freedom and equality was released and became a free man once again. However, by now he was a frail senior citizen who had missed out on the lives of his children and a marriage that at one time was the envy of most people. Nelson Mandela had very much to be bitter and angry about, therefore the world stood on edge when he was released in 1990, expecting the bitterness and anger that would spew from this tortured man to spark a storm of rioting and destruction throughout the nation of South Africa. What his former oppressors and the world got from Nelson Mandela rather, was an overwhelming outpouring of forgiveness, love and grace. The reason why you and I and the rest of the world love Nelson Mandela even in death, is the very reason you and I and the people of Toronto ought to love, forgive and pray for Mayor Rob Ford even as the saga he initiated continues. Mandela gave love and grace to a people most would argue did not deserve love and grace. He knew that there could be no true healing for himself or anyone else otherwise.
I, like many in Toronto and around the world, watched the video of Mayor Rob Ford ranting about wanting just fifteen minutes so he could kill someone. I watched that video several times the day it was released and resolved to do my part in ousting him from office if such a thing was legally possible. But something happened to me that night as I sat alone in my office reflecting on the day’s affairs. In my mind a picture formed: I saw a grassroots politician whose platform was to save money for the city of Toronto and its people; a man who personally returned the phone calls of his constituents. I saw a robust, unpolished, hotdog-eating and soda-drinking everyday guy, who seemed like he just wanted to get the job done. I saw a father, a husband, a brother and a son. I saw Rob Ford the person.
Then I replayed in my mind the video I’d seen several times that day and quickly reviewed some of the trouble the mayor had gotten himself into in recent times. In my mind I saw a chasm that had been forged by the vortex of unbecoming behavior and lies perpetrated by Mayor Ford. I saw a man on one side, with a track record of competence and getting the job done; with a love for people, especially the young ones he led as football coach and the constituents he represented; a man with a wife and children he adored; a man with a mother and siblings who would do anything for him.
On the other side of the chasm, was a drunk, public nuisance, crack cocaine user, liar, abuser and bully. As I tried to wrap my head around this dichotomy, trying to understand how such a gorge of disparity could have formed in this man’s life seemingly right before our eyes, and how best to reconcile it, the Spirit of God spoke quietly to my heart: Grace.
Grace? “Lord, are you serious?” I asked out loud. “I understand your admonition to me as a Christian to forgive and love my fellow man. But how does one minister grace to a mayor who has deceived us and betrayed our trust, then apologized about what he did even while continuing to blatantly lie?”
I was scratching my head about this when true to His nature, the Spirit of God brought this scripture to my mind from the book of Romans 5 vs. 7-8: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NIV)
Jesus did not wait for us to stop sinning before offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Rather, in the midst of our sinning, the very people whose sin He came to forgive beat him mercilessly and nailed Him on a cross to bleed to death. What God is saying to us is that His grace has no boundaries and requires no prequalification. The Bible makes it clear that there is nobody good enough to earn God’s boundless mercy and grace because He is a Holy God and is diametrically opposed to sin. Yet He loves the world so much that He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins so that we would be reconciled to Him. That grace is not
limited to Christians. In fact, a Christian is anyone who recognizes that they are lost without the grace of Jesus, and asks Him into their lives to be Lord and Saviour. This means the grace of God is already extended to every person alive. All one needs to do is accept the gift.
It is true that I could have written this article without mentioning Mayor Rob Ford. I chose to because Mayor Ford needs healing from all that he has put himself through. His family needs healing from all that he has put them through. The people of Toronto and even Canada need healing from the lies, betrayal, confusion, pain and hatred that have prevailed since the beginning
of this saga.
Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world. In His abounding grace God made it so that people from all over the world would congregate here. We can minister His grace to them without even travelling farther than the Greater Toronto Area. Since Rob Ford is the mayor who set this saga in motion, and is still the mayor as I write, the ministry of grace to the people of this great city must begin with him. In doing this we actually fulfill God’s charge to us, His people, to pray for our leaders. And as we do this, the Bible also says in 2nd Chronicles 7 vs. 14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Toronto needs the kind of healing only Jesus can provide. Therefore iiNFLUENCE Magazine is joining with Global Kingdom Ministries and calling a Grace and Forgiveness Prayer Service to pray for Mayor Rob Ford and all our government leaders in Canada and their families. In so doing we will minister grace and peace to this great city, its beautiful people and our Nation of Canada. Grace would be a fitting tribute to the memory of Nelson Mandela.
The Church Prays for Canada’s Political Leaders
Venue: Global Kingdom Ministries
1250 Markham Road
Date: Wednesday March 26th, 2014
Time: 7:00 pm
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