The “Preach Everywhere Gospel Band”

www.gospeltimes.cn-2_49004920_diaryMany people in the West are familiar with the Back to Jerusalem Movement, which refers to a movement of Chinese Christians to take the gospel to Central Asia, and then “back to Jerusalem.”

Fewer people, perhaps, are aware of the fact that this movement, or vision, is not something new; it really began in the 1940′s when God called a group of Chinese believers to take the Gospel to Northwest China (Xinjiang) and Central Asia. They formed a team called the “Preach Everywhere Gospel Band,” and fanned out across Xinjiang.

In January, one of the original members of the group, He Enzheng, passed away in Kashgar at the age of 97. The Gospel Times published a story about the life of “Grandma He” and the history of the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band. The article is translated in full:

About the Preach Everywhere Gospel Team.

‪On January 16, Servant of the Lord He Enzheng passed away in Kashgar, Xinjiang. She was 97. She was one of the first to receive the vision of taking the gospel “back to Jerusalem.” She, along with her husband Zhao Maijia (Mecca Zhao) were the founders of the “Preach Everywhere Gospel Band.” “Grandma He” was said to be the last remaining member of China’s Back to Jerusalem Movement from the 1940s. The following is an introduction to the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band based on a collection of various resources and information.

‪In his dissertation for his doctoral degree, titled “Northwest Bible College — a Vineyard in a Wasteland,” a pastor at the Shaanxi Bible School writes about the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band. This group, established by the college, made significant contributions to the pastoral training and Biblical teaching of the Shaanxi China Inland Mission. The creation of the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band made a deep impact on the gospel work in northwest China, and was an important event in the history of the Chinese church as a whole.

‪The Northwest Bible College was established in 1941 by pastor Dai Yong Mian (1894-1978) in the county town of Feng Xiang in Baoji City. In 1926, Dai had returned to China from America and launched into evangelical work in Luoyang, Henan, assuming the position of Kaifeng Bible College director. In June of 1938, however, the Japanese army entered Kaifeng. Because of the resulting war, Dai was unable to continue his work in the city. Consequently, he made a plan to meet up with his family in the city of Yantai, where they would all buy tickets to return to America together.

At that time, the call to preach the gospel in the northwest came to Dai. His entire party made the decision to return their tickets to America and go to Shaanxi instead. In 1940, they moved to Fengxiang in Shaanxi, and in 1941, they cooperated with the China Inland Mission to found the Northwest Bible College; Dai became the director. The unique vision and calling of this Bible College was to spread the gospel to the northwest.

‪On the night of November 25, 1942, while teachers and students at the college were praying, they saw a vision of the Chinese church owing a “gospel debt” to every nation. Following this meeting, Associate Dean Mark Ma held another prayer meeting in 1947 for the specific purpose of praying over paying back the gospel debt. At this second meeting, Pastor Ma felt that God had opened a road for Chinese disciples to take the gospel back to Jerusalem.

‪Pastor Ma was an only child born to Christian parents. He was originally from Henan Province and later educated in Kaifeng. As a young adult, Ma was a teacher before he became a Christian. After losing his son to pneumonia in 1937, he laid his broken heart before the cross and accepted Christ. He then left the teaching profession and enrolled in Kaifeng Free Methodist Bible College. During the second Sino-Japanese war, Ma and his whole family went with Dai Yong Mian (Hudson Taylor’s grandson) to Shaanxi. In 1941, when Dai established the Northwest Bible College and became the Dean, Pastor Ma became Associate Dean.

Later, under Dean Dai’s direction, more than 70 students and teachers resolved to pray for the five provinces of northwest China every Wednesday. In 1943 the “Preach Everywhere Gospel Band” was officially established, with its name originating from Matthew 24:14. Pastor Ma became the editor of the Preach Everywhere Gospel Newspaper, and missionaries to northwest China were given the name “Back to Jerusalem Corps,” of which Ma was elected Director-General. The Preach Everywhere Gospel Band was an inter-denominational Chinese Christian organization that didn’t accept donations or contributions from foreign Christians or denominations.

In the summer of 1946, Mecca Zhao, Dai Yanzhong, Huang Qingzhi and others from the Gospel Band were sent to Qinghai to work. The road they took passed through the cities of Lanzhou and Xining and ended in Huangyuan, Qinghai province. Because the gospel was needed so badly in Huangyuan, Dai Yanzhong stayed there while Mecca Zhao continued west. In the spring of 1948, Zhao went back through Gansu to Xinjiang, passing the cities of Zhangye, Jiuquan, Dunhuang, Hami, Turpan, and Korla as he followed the north ridge of the Tianshan mountains. Along the way, he carved stamps in order to support himself and his work. Several months later, he finally reached the city of Shulei in far western China. Pastor Huang Qingzhi still serves in Xinjiang’s Mingde Church today.

The next year, in March of 1947, Fengxiang Bible College teacher He Enzheng led five Northwest Bible College students to meet up with Mecca Zhao in Xining. After being commissioned by their congregation in Xi’an, He and her students, Fan Zhijie, Lu De, Wei Suxi, Zhang Moxi, and Li Jinquan, began their journey. The group passed through Pingliang, Tianshui, Gangu, Lanzhou, and other cities, serving at revivals and evangelistic meetings along the way as the Lord led, until they reached Urumqi in September of 1948.

In 1949, several more students from the Gospel Band were successively dispatched to Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Mecca Zhao and He Enzheng also went south to Kashgar at this time. The ultimate aspiration of the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band was to start in northwest China and follow the Silk Road to Afghanistan, Iran, Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, eventually taking the gospel back to Jerusalem. However, after China took control of Xinjiang in 1950, the work of the Gospel Band stagnated.

After experiencing the Cultural Revolution, the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band’s members returned to their home base, but resolved not to lose sight of their calling. As Zhao Maijia put it, “The road from Xinjiang to Jerusalem might be temporarily closed off, but while we may not be able to reach our ultimate goal, we hope our children can take on this task as their own.”

Currently, little is known about the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band’s development from the Cultural Revolution until the present day. Relevant information still needs to be gathered, and interviews about the history of the group need to be conducted. A fairly complete history of the Preach Everywhere Gospel Band can be found in Wang Ruizhen’s “Warriors of the Kingdom of God – The True Story of Pioneer Missionaries to Southern Xinjiang, Mecca Zhao and He Enzheng.”

To sum up, the development of Christianity in Xinjiang has over 100 years of history. In 1946, Christians in Urumqi, China established the Xinjiang Christian Church. That same year, Shandong believers organized the “Northwest Spirit Work Group” and published their manifesto titled “Bringing the Gospel Back to Jerusalem.” Shaanxi Christians organized a “Preach the Gospel to the Northwest Band” and arrived in Urumqi around 1948. Together, these three Chinese Christian organizations became the foundation of Christianity in Xinjiang today.

Original article: 关于“遍传福音团” (translated and posted with permission)

The Sanjiang Church Incident

www.gospeltimes.cn-1676207102On April 4, the western press began reporting on a church in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province that was surrounded by thousands of parishioners who were blocking a crew sent to demolish the church. As reported, local officials had initially ordered that the cross be removed from the church, and later said the church was built illegally  and had ordered its destruction. The story was a hot topic both inside and outside of China, and has come to be known as The Sanjiang Church Incident.

On April 5, Tom Phillips, of the Telegraph tweeted: “Communist officials in Zhejiang appear to have retreated from church demolition plans, 1 member says. “I’m so glad to hear this decision.”” 

On April 11, The mainland website Gospel Times published the following update on the situation, confirming the agreement, which will allow the church to keep the building and the cross, but requires them to ‘take care of the ancillary building’ in the back, which the church acknowledged had been built without the proper permits.

Today the Sanjiang Church Began Demolishing Two Floors of the Ancillary Building

On the morning of April 10, workers began tearing down the two floors of the 8-floor ancillary building of the Sanjiang Church in Yanjiu County of Wenzhou City, Zhejiang.

‪Gospel Times has received word from a Sanjiang Church worker that the church has hired a team of workers; this team has begin work on removing the top 2 floors of the annex building.

‪A sister at the site also communicated that the believers at the site were reacting calmly to this, and that people are still gathered in the church singing and praying.

The worker acknowledged the frustration over the situation and the difficulties in obtaining the necessary permission. The seven-story building ancillary building was built without the proper and formal approval.

The church was being used as an apartment for the elderly, and before this crisis exploded, some older church members were living in it.

The Sanjiang Church Incident started when they were asked to dismantle the cross, and gradually expanded to include the ancillary building and the main building itself.

Based on unconfirmed rumors that the church was going to be razed to the ground, on April 3 and 4, more than three thousand believers gathered to protect the church.

On the afternoon of April 4, the church and the local officials reached an agreement, declaring that “the church need not be torn down, and the cross need not be taken down.” However, as to the matter of the illegal ancillary building, “it is best for the church to take the initiative and solve the problem.”

At noon on April 5, the county government issued a notice that the “Illegal building must be disposed of according to the law.”

Original article and photo: 永嘉三江教堂今起拆除附属楼顶部二层 (translated and posted by permission)

Related Articles:

【特稿】直击温州永嘉三江教堂的强拆危机 (April 4, 2014, Gospel Times)

Chinese Christians Communist Party to Halt Church “Demolition Campaign” (April 8, The Telegraph)

Official Denies Order to Tear Down Churches in Wenzhou (April 10, The Global Times)

China Denies Church Demolition Campaign, but Says Christianity’s Growth “Excessive.” (April 10, the Telegraph)

 

 

 

Caring for Leukemia Patients

2014010718241119As more space opens for Christians to be engaged in society, one of the things they are doing is offering care and encouragement for those who are sick. This article, from the Christian Times, is about some sisters from a church in Shanghai who minister to leukemia patients. 

A Church in Shanghai cares for the souls of leukemia patients

Christians from a church in Shanghai visit leukemia patients to offer their concern and bring encouragement and comfort to them and their families.

Of the visits, one of the pastors remarked, “Here you can feel close to the edge of death. In the past, Catholic churches had cemeteries next to them in order to remind people that they are strangers in this world, and that no matter who you are, your life will end. Now is the time to really think about what is meaningful in life.”

Two members of the church in Shanghai suffer from leukemia; however because they have experienced the power of God, they have begun caring for others with leukemia. They have been doing this for a year and a half. Every weekend, the pastors and brothers and sisters from the church visit a leukemia hospital to share the Gospel with patients and teach them the Bible. They also help patients with their health care costs and assist the patients’ families. In addition, they have comforted many families who have lost loved ones.

A sister recently shared that in the past year and a half of visiting leukemia patients on weekends, she has experienced the tremendous grace of God.

“Because there is no cure for leukemia, a child in Xi’an passed away; however she and her family all believed. Because of her great loss, we thought that the child’s mother would turn away from God. However, to our surprise, she not only did not turn away from God, she is now even more hungry for God. She said that if there were no God, then it would be even more difficult for her. She also has hope for the future because she will see her daughter again in heaven. This has been a great comfort to her heart.”

This mother also used her own possessions to establish a leukemia fund to help other children with leukemia.

“Although our desire is is that the children will not leave us, that they will survive, we know that God has his own purposes. Because of testimonies like this, we know that our work is important.

“God has called us to this work, so even when we are tired and weak, we continue to visit the patients every week. And each time God has given us his grace and a harvest.”

The sisters have the gift of evangelism. Even though they themselves don’t have leukemia, some of their family members do. This means that they are also suffering the effect of the disease.

Following one of them around the hospital as she visits the patients, you can see that her eyes are bright and she actively talks to the patients and encourages their families.

Because she has such a good relationship with the doctors and nurses at the hospital, when they see her coming they all say, “here comes the missionaries!”

Using a video link, she offers comfort to patients at their bedsides. This reminds me of the scenes where Jesus cared for the demon-possessed and healed the sick.

Everyone may feel small in today’s busy world, and some are small; however, if there is someone to care for our souls, then we can be comforted.

“For people in this present day and age, if they do not know Jesus, there is only despair and darkness. This is especially true in hospitals, where people are numb with pain and you can see desperation in their eyes. So we know that we are doing really makes a difference,” the evangelist said earnestly.

Original article and photo:上海一教会关注白血病人群:切实关怀每个灵魂 (translated and posted with permission)

Praying for Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan-LandscapeWe love stories about churches in China praying for their brothers and sisters world-wide. This one, in the mainland site Christian Times is about a special prayer time held at a church in Beijing for the people of Kazakhstan.

 

Beijing Gospel Missionary Church Prays for Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia. It has a Muslim population of 54%, and there are only a handful of Christians there. During the worship service on February 23, 2014, the church had a special prayer for Kazakhstan.

Brother Yao appealed to the congregation to pray that the problems of alcoholism and broken families in Kazakhstan will be eliminated.

He also urged them to pray that the church in Kazakhstan will grow amidst tribulation and for the protection of missionaries there, so that the good news of God’s might will be spread to more people.

Following the appeal, the congregation of the Gospel Missionary Church eagerly raised their hands and offered their prayers for Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan has recently experienced a blizzard, and on January 29 there was a large earthquake.

Finally, the congregation committed to continue the practice of praying for families in Beijing.

Original Article: 北京福音宣教教会会众为哈萨克斯坦祷告

Image source: Top Travel Lists

Ten Reasons I am a Christian

prayingThe Gospel Times recently re-posted a piece from a blogger, titled “Why I Am a Christian.” In it the blogger gives ten reasons for being a Christian. The structure is one commonly used in Chinese writing — asking a question multiple times, then answering it multiple times.

Like most Chinese people, I was born into a family with no Christian background. Up until now, we still live in a society that is quite unfriendly to Christianity. Our culture also has absolutely no connection with the Christian religion. However, like millions of Chinese young people of my generation, I have become a devout Christian. Why am I a Christian? I’d like to share a simple explanation, including my personal experiences and some objective facts of Christianity.

1. Christ chose me

Why am I a Christian? When we say we are Christians, this doesn’t mean we’ve entered some type of religious group, take part in some religious activities, or have been enlightened. Actually, I believe that Christ is my personal savior, and I’ve experienced His salvation, been born again, and have a relationship with Him. I may be imperfect in my personality and my actions, but I’m working hard to live according to God’s requirements, to become a person after His own heart.

Why am I a Christian? First, I believe that this was God’s choice. The Bible says that before the creation of the world, He had already chosen me. The Bible says it is not we who chose God, but God who chose us. His call and His election cannot be cast off (see Job 15:16-19, 2 Thes. 2:13). I didn’t know God before, and probably would not have proactively taken interest in a foreign religion. But looking back, in the process of becoming a believer, not one experience happened by accident. It was all according to God’s own perfect plan and will.

2, I want to believe in truth

Why am I a Christian? I believe this is not only because God proactively chose me, it was also my rational and conscious response. My rational side cannot deny the fact that He created the human race and redeemed us, a fact that has been confirmed not only by the highest level scientists and our spiritual forefathers. Besides, my conscience – my God-given ability to discern truth – makes it impossible for me to refuse the One who created me, the Savior who died for me. I am unable to refuse the truth I already know.  

Why am I a Christian? Why would I trust in Jesus? Because He is the Truth. This is not just because Jesus said He is the Truth. The founders of Buddhism and many other religions have never claimed to be the Truth. It’s also that I have personally experienced God’s own absolute truth and unchanging love. I believe it is this type of actual experience that provides the deepest basis for faith.

3. I want to believe in a God who loves me

Why am I a Christian? If I had to choose a religion, I would definitely choose a God who is loving and personal, and one who feels. I wouldn’t choose to believe in someone who was fickle, lustful and tyrannical, who didn’t care whether people lived or died. That would be like the Greek Zeus, or the powerless polytheistic religions with all their capricious gods. Furthermore, this God loves me. Only through His love and my faith can I have a relationship with Him.   

The Bible says God is love; in Him there is no darkness at all. God is the Father God who not only exists, but also has a relationship with us, and we can experience his loving kindness and guidance. We not only need God, but God also wants to be needed.  I believe a man created in the image and form of his Creator will experience that Creator’s character in his spirit. Therefore, I can know Him through my conscience, reason, and experience, but especially through His own revelation.

4, I want to believe in a God who is holy and just

Why am I a Christian? If I believe in a God, I can’t believe one who is self-centered, who fulfills his own selfish desires, and who makes unpredictable changes in his requirements. I must believe in a God who is holy and just, carries out justice, has compassion on all, judges evil, and bestows blessing and benevolence. Only if God is just can he have principles. Only if a man has principles to obey can he have direction; only if a man has direction can he depend on truth.

The Bible says that our God is holy and just. The Bible mentions God’s holiness and righteousness more than 300 times. I believe that if God created man to be His children, it is as the Bible says. So, the depths of our hearts have the cognition to reflect God’s character, which means we have a resonance with the truth, goodness, and beauty of God.  We thirst for holiness and righteousness. This shows that this God also loves holiness and righteousness; He Himself is the holy righteous savior. Since He gave us universal values, He will abide according to His own demands. Therefore, through yearning for holiness, righteousness, and love, I can better know a holy, righteous, loving God.

5, I want to believe in a God who can redeem us

Why am I a Christian? Because I am deeply acquainted with my own sinfulness. Relying on myself, I could never become a good person. Just like an apostle said: the resolve to do good comes from me; but actually doing it is beyond me. I need to be redeemed. Only if we are redeemed will we have hope in our lives. Only if my life has been redeemed can I have the restraint to overcome my sinfulness and feelings of gloom, in order to glorify God in my life and live a good life. I can’t believe in a god who can’t overcome my sinful spirit and actions. It is God who gave me life and breath, so He is able to save my life. It is God who sustains me every day, so He is able to save my life. 

The God of Christians is the Creator and Redeemer. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why am I a Christian? Because this trustworthy God is the Savior who can save me. It is He whose presence my heart knows intuitively.

6, I want to believe in a God who never changes

Why am I a Christian? If I believe in a master, he can’t be a tyrant, who does whatever he wants, changing unpredictably according to His fleshly desires. God’s character cannot change. He puts up with and understands that my nature is capricious and liable to fall. He cannot change, so I can follow and abide by His will. He cannot change; He won’t discard me because of a temporary sinful weakness or impulse. After that period of weakness, I can still return to that salvation.

Our God is the God never changes. The Bible says, “can a woman forget her nursing child?” Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!  (Is. 49:15) It’s true! I have been disappointed in myself time and again, but God has never been disappointed in me. Because of His unchanging nature, it becomes possible for weak sinners to repent.

7. I want to believe in a God who gives me strength and hope

Why am I a Christian? If I will trust a master, he must be able to give me strength and hope, not a God who intimidates me daily, deepening my fears and increasing my burdens. He must have personality, an independent will, an unchanging nature, and emotion, and He must love, teach, and forgive me. He must let me get close to Him, love Him, and fear Him. He must give me strength, hope, direction and a sense of responsibility. If the object of our faith was a negative force, it would be evil, and why would I believe in one who was evil? So I want believe in the master who gives people strength and hope.  

The Bible says, “the Lord is my strength and my song, and he is become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Ex. 15:2). II Samuel 22:19 says “the Lord is my support.” Psalm 14:6 says “the LORD is my refuge.” Psalm 16:5 says “the LORD is my inheritance and my cup of blessing.  He guards all that is mine.” Psalm 18:2 says “the LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.” He is my shield, my horn of salvation and my high tower.” Psalm 118:14 says the LORD is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation…….

8. I want to believe in a God proven to produce “good fruit” throughout history

Why am I a Christian? If I choose to believe in a master, He cannot be one who needs advertisements to promote himself; He must be a God proven to produce good fruit. I want to see whether He has brought the world is redemption or disaster.

Looking at the history of man and the modern world, you will see that it is the Christian faith that has brought the world civilization and hope. You will see that Christian countries and cultures that have been profoundly influenced by Christianity are wealthier and freer, with greater equality and democracy. The world’s earliest constitutional states were born out of the Christian faith. Early capitalism came from the Christian faith. From equality for women, to college education, to modern technology, to the modern health care and welfare systems, all these came from the Christian faith. Why are the governmental systems of Christian countries so good? Because they have the Christian faith.

The historian Toynbee said, “Religion is the essence of culture, while culture is the expression of religion.” As we can see, whatever religion you have, you have that kind of culture; whatever culture you have, you have that kind of system, and will produce that kind of society. Political systems under the influence of the Christian faith are generally more open, while their societies are more humane, and relationships between people more harmonious. Why do so many people want to immigrate to countries influenced by Christianity and be educated there? Psalm 33:12 says, “what joy for the nation whose God is the LORD, whose people He has chosen as His inheritance!”

9. I want to believe in a God who can take me to be with Him

Why am I a Christian? If I trust in a god, He must be understandable, and be able to understand me. He cannot be lofty, or exist in nothingness. He entered into human life, to understand people, to help people, to solve their problems, to bring them truth, direction, and the wisdom of practical truth. He is a God who could come close, who could receive love, and express love. 

The Bible says that God’s name is Emmanuel – He is God with us, who lives amongst man. He is a God who observed and even experienced human suffering. Hebrews 4:15 says that “He is not a high priest who can not understand with our weaknesses.” He faced all of the same tempations we do, yet He did not sin.

10, I want to believe in an Almighty God

Why am I a Christian? If I choose to believe in someone, He must be Almighty. If the object of my faith cannot fend for Himself, but needs human bribes, or thrives on intimidating or threatening others, He is not worth trusting. The One I believe in must be omnipotent. He must be unique and true, not overwhelmed by problems, but the God who can solve all problems. If He was not omnipotent, that would mean that in the face of difficulties, the difficulties may be bigger than him, so I would not be able to believe in him, which would mean there was no god.  –  .The One I believe in must be unique.

In Genesis 35:11 it says, “God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty.’”  “Almighty” appears 62 times, all to describe the great power of God. The first sentence of the Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe in God the Father Almighty!” This means that God is Father – He loves us and wants to help us. He is Almighty – he has the ability to help us. This is the true and living faith of Christians.

Christ is everything listed here, and so much more. He is the only God who could cover such a religion as this. Why would I not believe in Him? As one brother said, there are many reasons not to believe in God, but believing in God doesn’t need any reasons. Because God is God, He is the Redeemer we must believe in. 

Why am I a Christian? I believe that my faith comes from God’s choosing; it is my rational and conscious response. Finally, I would like to quote a sentence from a youth group: “Believing in everything equals believing in nothing!” It’s true! The Truth is profound; He does not cease to exist just because man refuses Him. Truth exists independently – it is not dependent on the preferences of man. Truth is unique, so, of course, unique things are exclusive. 2+2 = 4, but we cannot, due to an attitude of acceptance, believe that it equals 6, 7, or 8. 2+2 equals 4, and that is the only true answer. Regarding religion as a form of culture, Christians need to be tolerant of and learn from all. But as a religion, you must and accept and submit to this one and only Truth.

Original Article: Why I am a Christian

Filial Piety: A Christian Perspective

IMG_3420-001Filial piety is one of the bedrock values of Chinese society. Rooted in Confucianism, it is the belief that honoring one’s parents is a person’s most important responsibility. It is also the philosophical underpinning the traditional practice of ancestor worship. The mainland site Gospel Times, recently re-posted an article from a personal blog titled The Christian View of Filial Piety. In it the author explores the similarities and differences between the Chinese concept of filial piety and the Biblical teaching to honor one’s parents.

I. Crises arising from an aging society

According to recent statistics, there are about 23,400,000 people in the country who are over 65 years of age. According to a survey of several large cities, 30% of the population consists of empty nesters. In Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin that number is more than 30%. The fifth population census showed that among those who were 65 years or older, 11,990,000 are over 80, accounting for 13.6% of the population. The widowed elderly accounted for 38%. In addition, chronic diseases and Alzheimer’s disease affect more than ten million people. There are tens of millions of these elderly people who are in dire need of social pensions and community service. According to surveys, there are about 14 million seniors who have applied for entry into welfare agency retirement homes. At present, there are only about one million beds in all the various welfare agencies, which is far from meeting the needs of all the elderly. However, there is also the contradiction that nursing home utilization is not all that high given the total amount of welfare agencies; the utilization is much lower than in developed countries, where 5-7% of seniors enter into senior homes. (Quoted from Baidu Encyclopedia “aging society” entries.)

China’s baby boomer generation came earlier, which triggered a series of social problems. For example, it restricted economic development and created social pressures caused by the pension problem and a reasonable ethical crisis. On January 30, 2012, the Xinhua website featured an article titled, “Octogenarian Sleeps Outside Daughter’s Doorway; This Year is Cold.” The article was about an elderly man who did not receive any care from his six children (who were experiencing differences) and froze for four days and three nights. 84-year-old He Daxing from Qijiang County has six children, yet he was homeless. On January 26, the youngest daughter-in-law signed an agreement to send the grandpa to his youngest daughter’s home, but his daughter would not accept the responsibility. The helpless elderly man had to sleep in the stairway in front of her door for four days and three nights. The sad thing is, so far, none of his children are willing to take their father into their home. 

Recently, a popular Hong Kong film, “A Simple Life,” featured a “peach sister” who goes to live in a nursing home after a stroke. When this film premiered in Mainland China, audiences were moved by the bond between Roger and peach sister, and felt dismayed by the seniors’ lifestyle in nursing homes. Mother Teresa once discussed the times when she served the elderly in nursing homes. She saw that their living environment was very good; they were taken care of, had people to wash the sheets and serve them food, or even have meals delivered to their room. However, she could see in their eyes that they were not happy, and she felt that all these people had to look forward to while staying in nursing homes was to await death. Mother Teresa asked an old man, “Where are your children? Have they visited you recently?” The old man replied, “The children live not far from here, but are too busy. They came about five years ago to visit.” They were too busy.

Although the cases mentioned above are not comprehensive, they are an accurate reflection of the plight of China’s elderly. Whether it is the rural elderly who lack a warm abode, or urban elderly who have nursing homes but are devoid of joy that comes from the soul, this topic is a heavy topic indeed. How do we enable the elderly to joyfully enter into and inhabit old age? Christians must not and cannot avoid this issue. We should clarify our positions from a level of faith, while calling our community to respond to this reality.

II. The Biblical concept of honor

1) The concept of honor in the Old Testament

The Ten Commandments can be divided into two sections: the first four are about God, and the latter six are about man. The first commandment concerning man (which is really the fifth commandment) says, “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) This is God’s command regarding filial piety. In God’s eyes, parents are to be respected, even senior parents who are difficult to get along with. They are to be honored. It is apparent that God values and emphasizes filial piety.

The family is the basic unit of society; when families are in harmony, society is in harmony. When families are in conflict, social harmony is disturbed. The Bible tells us: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deut. 5:16) This applies to each individual person as well as to the nation as a whole. Deuteronomy says: “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.” (Deut. 21:18-21) Although this is the law of the Old Testament towards the Israelites, here lies the spirit of the teachings of this age, for personal morality, religious piety, and the necessity of social order. Honoring parents is not only an individual responsibility, but also a societal necessity. The Old Testament elevates the command to honor your parents to a very high level.

2) The concept of honor in the New Testament

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for making an excuse not to care for their parents: “But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matt 15:5-6). And, while Jesus was being crucified, he looked specifically to his disciple John and told him to take care of his mother Mary. Jesus is the best model for us to emulate. Luke 15:21 records the parable of the prodigal son who came home, and the first sentence he spoke was: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” Christianity emphasizes living a life of love through the practice of loving acts. The most important thing is loving God, followed by loving your neighbor as yourself. Those who love God, must love others. In loving others, we manifest the love of God. John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” All those who love God should also love his brother, for this is God’s command. Since God wants us to love those brothers who surround us everyday, parents are commonly included as those whom we are called to love. For Christians, respect for the elderly is not as simple as social morality, but rather the fear of God.

III. Similarities and differences between the Biblical and traditional Chinese views of honor.

Both the Christian faith and Confucian Culture regard parents highly. Your parents play a strong role in building your character and molding your morality. Filial piety is at the center of Confucian ethical practice. “The Analects of Confucius” has the following passage: “Son Tour asked regarding filial piety, and Confucius responded: Today’s filial piety, who is able to keep? As dogs and horses, which we own and nurture, can we allow them to be disrespectful?” Confucius stressed that “filial piety” includes “respect.” Mencius said: “Care for the elderly, and the old man, our children, and the young man. The spirit of Chinese culture is filial piety through respect and a sense of dearness. This sense of dearness between parents and children reflects the spirit of love and action through Christ. This dear respect, not founded on rights and responsibilities, and is not utilitarian, but directed at people’s hearts; Mencius referred to it as pure intention and sincerity.

Chinese culture and Christianity have the same emphasis on filial piety, but there are some major differences. First, the Chinese view of piety is clear in their texts: “All people are born with innate goodness” and honoring their parents is part of the natural conscience. Everyone knows it; it is not taught. So, parents are the supreme authority; “there is no one in the world that is not a parent,” and no matter how parents scold their children, children must unconditionally obey and honor their parents. Any resentment or anger is a lack of filial piety. Obviously, this is not humane. Christian faith is lived out in life, and the Bible teaches that filial piety is important. Loving your parents is loving God; the way you show your love for God is through loving others. Ephesians 6:1 says: “You must obey your parents in the Lord.” This is the standard of Christian piety. The so-called “in the Lord” does not mean parents have to be Christians, but that Christian piety must be according to the requirements of God. There is only one God. When parents’ filial requirements conflict with the will of God, it is important to obey God rather than the parents’ teachings.

Secondly, Christian piety originates from the love of God, who is loving, entirely selfless, one-directional, and gives sacrificially. Confucian filial piety comes from the concept that humans are naturally good intentioned and inherently good. Christian filial piety centers on God, originates from God and is for God, while Confucian filial piety originates from the person attributed. For this reason, we see the emergence in Chinese culture of the worship of humans in the place of God, as manifested in ancestral worship and other superstitions.

IV. How should Christians implement honor

In the New International Version of the Bible, honor is translated as “respect” and has several meanings: to take care of (Ps. 91:15); obedience (Deut. 21:18-21, Eph. 6:1); respect (Lev. 19:3, 20:9). It can be understood as supporting parents, obeying parents, or respecting parents.

1) Alimony — “Filial piety is the first priority.” While parents are alive, if children refuse to support them, then they demonstrate a lack of filial piety. Honor your parents, so long as they live, and not in their death do you begin to worship. Gu Yin Zeng said: “the slaughter of cattle as a worship to ancestors is not as good as honoring them while they are alive and feeding them with chicken meat and bread.” Xiu said: “The Festival of Abundance is not as good as supporting them and taking care of them.” As the saying goes: ” Eating a raw pea in life is better than eating a pig after death.” The ancients have taught that the ideal form of honor to parents is to care for and provide for them so that they may live a full, sustaining life, rather than merely paying respects after their death with generous sacrifice.

2) Submission — Obedience mainly refers to the need to better understand our parents – what they are thinking, what needs they have, what they are afraid of – and to obey their wishes. Here, the word “obedience” does not refer to indulging or giving into parents’ sins, but obeying them in the context of our relationship with them throughout our lives. Obeying our parents also includes understanding them, knowing that a person gradually ages and experiences increasing difficulties. We need all who are children to understand and accept this predicament.

3) Respect — Because of our respect and obedience, we enable parents to receive honor. Respect for parents is not merely in the form of etiquette, but also in grace. As they age, some of their habits and the way they do things might grow to be improper, and they might do a lot of things we would never expect them to do. The Bible says: “Love is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14), and indeed it really is. In the Bible, Noah and his family came out of the ark to till lands and vineyards. On one occasion, he drank too much wine, and his naked body was lying on his tent. His youngest son saw him and ran out of the tent and told his two brothers. They heard and took clothes and went back to cover him up. After his father awoke, and was made aware of the matter, he cursed his son Canaan, but blessed the two sons who covered his shame (cf. Gen. 9:20-27).

4) Evangelism — How do we honor parents in our practical lives? We talked about emotional and physical needs — all of which we need to take care of. In the “spiritual” sense, what matters greatly is the salvation of our parents; if the parents are not saved, then all you do to honor them is in vain — as it will only sustain them for this lifetime rather than all of eternity. So, you must pray for their souls. Pray for opportunities to share. Ask some of their peers to help share the gospel with them. Pay attention to opportunities for them to participate in some Gospel Evangelistic camp or the like. Moreover, it’s not only about helping them receive salvation, but also letting them grow spiritually; you have to care about their spiritual growth and maturity.

Let us thank God for the blessing of love and for the warmth of family to enjoy. Lord, by your grace, we should have a grateful heart to honor you, and by the grace of your Word, we obey your commands. Lord, your word is before us, and we have to lean upon you today. I pray you will help us so that we may obey your word, to have humility and obedience towards your word. We believe that through your grace we are truly blessed.

Original Gospel Times article: The Christian View of Filial Piety

Original blog post: The Christian View of Filial Piety

Christians Go Online to Comment on the Kunming Massacre

kunming-train-attackOn March 1, a group of assailants launched an attack on passengers at the Kunming train station. By the time police arrived and put an end to the carnage by killing 4 of the attackers, 29 people were dead and over 100 injured. Calling it “China’s 9-11,” the Chinese government labelled it as a “terrorist attack,” laying the blame on Uighur separatists from Xinjiang. They vowed to bring the attackers who escaped to justice. Several days later the government announced that all of the attackers who fled had been arrested.

Chinese people went online to express their grief and anger at the attacks. Christian voices were also in the mix, calling for prayer for the victims and their families and for ethnic reconciliation. Many pastors also used their online platforms to encourage believers to be more urgent in their sharing of the gospel, since it is only the Gospel that can bring peace.

The mainland site Christian Times posted an article on March 3, titled Pastors Mourn the Kunming Massacre — Only the Gospel Can Bring About Change, highlighting some of the online commentary:

After “3/01,” the violent and terrible day at the Kunming train station, many people were deeply distressed by this act of terrorism. As of now, this terrorist attack has claimed 29 lives and 143 people were injured. Besides condemnation, distress, and mourning, many Christian pastors have said they want to spread the Gospel more quickly, since only the Gospel can change this world.

After the incidents of violence, every major news media website, in addition to Weibo and Weixin, Christians and non-Christians alike, all quietly passed on the message to pray for Kunming. Many people brought flowers to the Kunming station, praying that the victims would “rest in peace.” Tragedies are always upsetting, and many Christian pastors prayed for the circumstances surrounding this terrorist attack.

“Sensen Xu,” in his post titled, “The Kunming Massacre,” wrote: “What is wrong with this world? The tragedy of the dead, the tears of the injured, the pain of Kunming tugs at our heart strings. Tears cannot wash away sorrow; being indignant cannot undo what happened. All we can do is quiet our hearts and ask, how would this happen? Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” As a Christian, if we want to change this world, which lies under the hand of the evil one, besides prayer, all we can do is hurry up and spread the Gospel.

“Platinum Gospel – Grace Road,” in a post titled “03/03 Prayer” said: “Father, please have mercy on the city of Kunming. Our dear flesh and blood live there, and their grief is our grief, their tears are our tears! Please send Your Spirit to personally comfort them, and may they be completely filled by your love. Cause them to receive strength from you, because in love there is peace, and in love there is no fear! We pray with one accord, in the name of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen!”

Pastor Yang wrote in a post: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.I Cor. 13:6Anyone that injures someone, endangers society, or does evil in the name of religion, well, that is not religion but his own wickedness and hypocrisy, a faith kidnapped by hatred. This kind of person is ignorant and arrogant, and runs counter to the truth! 3/01, Kunming, may the dead rest in peace and the living be strong! Pray for our country!

Pastor Wei Feng posted: “Regarding what happened in Kunming, Christians should not harbor a heart of revenge against any person or ethnic group. However, we support the government in its fight against terrorism, and to arrest and fairly judge the criminals, so that justice will be displayed and the people will be protected. We must also pray for Xinjiang. God loves the world, and this includes those who are prey to false gods and hatred. May the Gospel that brings peace and forgives sin enter deep into the hearts of the people in Xinjiang. May there be peace between ethnic groups and may they move forward together.”

“The Kunming Incident”: What is it that we Christians are really dealing with? (Eph. 6:12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.)

“The Spirit of Jabez:” On March 1, there was catastrophic outbreak of violence in Kunming. While we mourn for the dead, I ask Christians also to pray for the peace of our nation. Ask God to protect our country, and ask Him to touch the terrorists, that they will repent and choose the right path. Also, ask God to strengthen our country and keep our people healthy.

“Lord, please accept the souls of those who died, and give them eternal rest. Please comfort the families of those who were injured and those who died, helping them to quickly emerge from the shadow cast by the fear and pain of losing loved ones. May Christ’s light of peace shine on the earth, dispelling the haze of hatred. Make every Christian and kind person into you tools of peace. Where there is hatred, sowing love, where there is injury, sowing forgiveness. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen!”

Original article: 众牧者基督徒悼念昆明之殇:唯有福音可以改变

Photo source: IB Times