Editor’s Note: This post is last in a series of what it means to be a patriotic Chinese and a Christ-follower, and how the two intersect. In this post, an international graduate student from China (name not identified) shares practical ways to spiritually engage with those who have received a thoroughly patriotic education.
Understanding their Story
“What? You are telling me those foreign devils (a negative term referring to foreigners) made a tremendous contribution in advancing China into a modern state?” As he conversed with his American friend, Jiu was deeply perplexed when he learned what early missionaries accomplished in building schools, bringing modern medicine and contributing to his homeland in many other positive ways. He asked, “But why? Why did they do that? I’ve never heard of this before, it’s totally different from what I’ve learned in school”.
It’s likely that Chinese students, especially those deeply loyal to their homeland, would react strongly to any exchange of conflicting information. Growing up in China, students have been exposed to “political” and “patriotic” courses throughout their education. They have been persuaded to believe that the Chinese people received unjust treatment and cultural invasion from major Capitalistic powers. They were taught that the Communist Party successfully set the country free from centuries of humiliating subjugation to Westerners.
In their view, all other beliefs and political systems proved to be flawed and they eventually failed in Chinese history. Not only that, they have been influenced to think that the Party is the only means of restoring and strengthening the nation to a level of global respect and power. Therefore, every Chinese can have the equal opportunity of achieving the “China Dream”.
For all these reasons, a Chinese student will have difficulty considering – and even embracing – any view they deem contrary to their patriotic beliefs. More so, they are likely to be skeptical and suspicious to accept Christian truth, which they view as a Western belief. Though it may not be obvious to their American friend, they are likely to avoid or reject spiritual conversations.
Sharing God’s Story
And yet, because of their educational and cultural background, there are ways to open the door to sharing the Gospel. As with most Asians from cultures based on honor and shame, Chinese people seek honor and avoid humiliation. Throughout recent decades, leaders in China have sought to reject the shame of the humiliating chapters of Chinese history. They have intended to restore honor to Chinese society. Yet, no form of political government can cause a nation to forget their pain and suffering. It cannot fully help their people heal from past pain, strife, and suffering.
The Scripture is a story of God’s divine redemption. He alone removes the shame and restores the honor of His chosen people. Adam and Eve felt shame and knew fear after they rebelled against God’s good will for them. Instead of rejecting them, he showed His grace and mercy by providing a covering for their shame. This pattern of rebellion and restoration is woven throughout history At the right time, God sent His Son to live, die and rise again. Through Christ, the shame of wayward people has been removed. They have been restored to the highest honor to become God’s children and live in His eternal kingdom, now and forever.
For Chinese students who have received a patriotic education they know little to nothing about the story of the Bible. More so, they have difficulty embracing the nature of their hearts and understanding the character of God. Unconditional love and forgiveness are concepts difficult for Chinese people to fathom. They wonder how can one freely love and forgive without any strings attached? Because of God’s radical love they can receive an honor they could not achieve for themselves. They no longer need to hide from any disgrace from the past or in the present. All this is possible through a personal relationship with God through Christ.
As you engage with your Chinese friend seek to understand their patriotic heritage. Learn how their thoughts and beliefs have shaped and influenced them. Yet, refrain from passing judgment. Avoid political conversations, especially on controversial topics regarding Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen Square. Instead, show them the way of God’s kingdom as you display His love and kindness. They will see you don’t intend to bring harm to them or their country. They will see light of God’s love that will warm their heart and revive their soul.