Recently I spoke at a leadership banquet for Canada’s National Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa. Dinner was delayed that evening as MPs (Members of Parliament) coming to the dinner were in the midst of an important vote. Minutes later, the MPs began to arrive. “What happened?” I asked. I was told that Canada’s prime minister had “lost it,” that he had walked across the House of Commons floor to “manhandle” people he disagreed with. The footage had already gone viral and the vote was postponed. “Was I ready to speak?” Of course I was. Laughter is good at such times, so I told a joke I told my mother. “Bananas are the politician’s fruit. They’re yellow, they’re crooked, and they hang out in bunches.” Thankfully they laughed, but my mother didn’t. “Son,” she said, “we are to pray for our leaders.” She was right.
I’m told the prime minister sat in bed that night reading the Bible. It’s a good place to go when you’ve blown it. The next morning at the prayer breakfast, Justin Trudeau read verses he chose himself from Romans 12. Without fanfare, he read, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourselves with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.” Then Mr. Trudeau sat down as former British MP Jonathan Aitken told his story. In 1999, Mr. Aitken pled guilty to perjury. Divorce followed. Then bankruptcy. Then an 18-month prison sentence. One day, his cellmate, an Irish guy named Paddy, said, “You’ve been good to me, I’d like to give you a gift.” Paddy handed him a box of porn magazines. “No thanks,” Aitken said. Paddy wasn’t happy.
“Why won’t you take my gift?” “Well,” answered the former MP, “I’ve been reading the Bible and I know my life must change.”
“Can I join you?” Paddy asked. Before long, others joined them. In time both Paddy and Aitken put their faith in Jesus Christ. After the prayer breakfast, I had lunch with Aitken. We talked about his time behind bars. “Prisoners and politicians aren’t so different,” he said. “We all need a Saviour.” How right he is. Psalm 130 says, “If You, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness so that we can, with reverence, serve You.”
I’m not a political guy, but I’m more aware than ever that I don’t have to agree with people for God to be at work in them. And when it comes to politicians, the Bible simply asks me to pray for them. I’m doing that like never before. We all need do-overs, don’t we? We all need to be reminded of God’s amazing grace.