I choose this National Day, not only for me, but also my children, to stand and bless Singapore.
By now many of us would have heard about the accidental “hero” of this year’s National Day Parade (NDP). Mr Azuan Tan was caught on camera during the singing of the national anthem, with his face overcome with emotion as tears filled his eyes.
Turns out that he is a secondary school teacher, a dedicated grassroots volunteer, and a parent who insists that his children stand with him when they recite the pledge and sing the national anthem while watching NDP at home yearly, just like his parents did for him when he was young. He is a Singaporean who loves and is proud of his country, and was moved by the NDP narrative on how many have played their part these last few years to help Singapore through the pandemic. It was a beautiful moment of the pure, unrehearsed overflow of his heart that was caught on camera for the world to see.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”(Luke 10:27)
The memes came fast and furious, and even DPM Lawrence Wong commented on the incident. The internet also found the “real” hero – Mr Ishak Jamid, the cameraman who spotted Mr Tan in the crowd of 25,000 people.
I love viral moments like this because it reveals hearts — of the people who are the subject, and also the people who react to it. Some were heartened by this heartfelt display of love and gratefulness. Others were predictably, and nauseatingly cynical, asking if he was “planted” somehow for effect. For me, it was a great encouragement that there are indeed people out there who love Singapore and her people like many of us do.
This is especially true for me as a Christian because we are commanded to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”(Luke 10:27) We can love the privilege, or even the pride of being a Singaporean. But until we can connect with loving the people of the country the Lord has placed us in, do we start to know His heart for the Land. She is not just her good policies, processes, progress or prosperity. She is a people for us to serve and love — She is our neighbour.
Jer 29:7 tells us also to “…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” If it applies to a people in exile, surely it applies to us, And in a way, it applies to us more, because though we belong here for now, our eventual and eternal Kingdom belongs to God.
I cringe when people casually curse our nation and her leaders. While I strive to listen and understand how their frustration (and even anger) is often valid, what is especially painful for me is when the people of God have given up Godly hope that our nation would have leaders who would live up to our blessings and prayers. Their faith is expressed in pre-emptive disapproval and disappointment, or worse, jaded jabs that self-prophesy the worst, preparing for the “I-told-you-so” from hell. Sometimes, a person’s unguarded love and grateful response, regardless of race language or religion, can be used to provoke us as God’s people in our apathy, towards greater honour for God and His appointed leaders, and love for our Nation that God loves.
I choose this National Day, not only for me, but also my children, to stand and bless Singapore. To pray for her leaders to have wisdom, a servant’s heart and the fear of the Lord. To believe that our best days are ahead of us. To pray hard and work hard at peacemaking and loving neighbour. That we the people of this land will have moral courage, kindness and compassion for all our neighbours. That we would be Singapore, a land blessed to be a blessing, even to the nations beyond.
“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.” Prov 11:11
By Ps Ian Wong