Early last Monday morning, Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, died from an undisclosed form of cancer. He wrote a letter to Canadians which has been publicized widely. People have been particularly impressed with his closing paragraph:
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
Canadians of all political persuasions have gravitated toward that simple paragraph, in part because it has such an appeal. It is positive. It is encouraging. But if you step back and think about it for a moment, it could have been lifted from the Bible!
Whether or not we believe Layton’s party policies or personal views reflected it, he had a Christian foundation for his life. A friend of mine told me how passionately (and sincerely) he had heard Layton read Psalm 42 at the National Prayer Breakfast a couple of years ago, speaking about what it meant to him.
It would have been uncharacteristic of Jack Layton to have quoted the Bible in his letter to Canadians. But that closing paragraph certainly reflected the truth of Scripture. Think about it:
Love is better than anger. “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3.14, NIV).
Hope is better than fear. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11.1, NIV).
Optimism is better than despair. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4.8, NIV).
Layton said that love, hope and optimism, engaged by Canadians, will change the world. He was right. God’s been saying that for thousands of years! Why, then, do you suppose that Canadians have latched onto these ideas with such vigour this week?
Some might suggest it’s emotional patriotism, or sympathy for a fallen leader. But I think it has more to do with the overall positive spirit with which those words were communicated.
In the church, we are often better at proclaiming what we don’t believe than what we do believe. To be fair, the church must decry those things which go against God’s plan, but the more positive spin we can put on our proclamation, the more likely it is to be received well by those inside and outside the church. After all, the gospel to which we cling is literally “good news”. Everybody wants good news, and we’ve got the best news going – so let me encourage you today, as a follower of Christ or a church leader, to be positive about how you share your faith. It can be tempting to be angry, fearful or despairing, but as the late Jack Layton has proven this week, love, hope and optimism are better vehicles for sharing the message that God so loved the world.