Image Credit: Troy Wilson Natural Canada Photo
There are many things to be thankful for as we reflect on all of the blessings that God has given us this Thanksgiving. Today, I am reflecting on the welcome that my ancestors received from the indigenous peoples who already occupied the land that most now call Canada. I am thankful for their willingness to share their land and resources with strangers.
We saw a beautiful modern-day example of this very welcome at Oasis 2017. Dr. Terry LeBlanc (Mi’gmaq-Acadian of Listuguj First Nation on the Quebec/New Brunswick border), Dr. Danny Zacharias (Métis), and Dr. Cheryl Bear (Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in British Columbia) welcomed Syrian refugees to Canada who had been sponsored by our Atlantic Baptist churches. I am amazed and humbled by our indigenous peoples’ continued hospitality and generosity. Even though my ancestors abused the welcome we were graciously extended, Canada’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples are still willing to welcome newcomers to this land.
There are many ways we can learn from Canada’s indigenous peoples. Just one of these ways is learning how to welcome and respect those who are different from us.
Indigenous peoples know that we are all children of the Creator and instinctively obeyed God’s law in Leviticus 19:33-34:
Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Their actions condemned my European ancestors, who had an anemic view of God and the Gospel that allowed them to steal land and resources and ignore the rights of entire people groups to do so. Unfortunately, some of them justified their sinful actions by saying they were there to bring the Gospel to the so-called “savages”.
Paul spoke about this dynamic in Romans 2. Please permit me a slightly altered reading especially of Romans 2:17-24:
You who call yourselves [civilized] are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.
Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The [‘savages’] blaspheme the name of God because of you.”
So today, I am thankful for Canada’s indigenous peoples’ willingness to welcome newcomers to their lands. I am also thankful for their willingness to reconcile their relationship with Canada and its people. Finally, I am thankful that indigenous peoples have provided us with a wonderful example of hospitality and forgiveness that echos the hospitality and forgiveness that our Creator provides to all of us. And, of course, I am thankful to our Creator who gave us everything, including his Son, Jesus Christ.
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.