Not A Criminal
If you ever talk with a Chinese student about sin, you will hear a common response, such as “I have not done any bad things in my life. I am not a criminal.” The closest translation of “sin”, or “zui” in the Chinese language literally means “crime”. Most Chinese students have never committed what they consider to be crimes, and do not consider themselves a criminal.
For this reason, it is futile to prove to Chinese students that they are in fact criminals. Rather, we should seek to help them understand what is meant by the word sin.
A Wrong Road
When discussing this topic ask your Chinese friend to read Romans 3:23. This verse shows that sin is an attitude of rejection we all have towards God. You could explain that God intended for us to walk with him. Yet, we chose to go against him and walk our own road.
A Broken Relationship
You can also ask your friend to read Isaiah 59:2. This verse shows the relational brokenness caused by sin. To illustrate this truth you could ask your Chinese friend to reflect upon a time when they hurt someone. It’s likely that the relationship was “broken” and there was nothing they could do to help restore the relationship. In the same way, no matter what we do we can’t get ourselves back into a relationship with God.
Shame and Honor
For most of us from a Western perspective, we understand sin as guilt and salvation as the removal of that guilt. While this is true, most Chinese believers primarily view salvation through the prism of honor and shame.
As Westerners, we might try very hard to convince our Chinese friends they are guilty only to find that the feeling of guilt doesn’t hold much leverage on their soul. Because they have not broken the laws of their society they may consider themselves to be “good” and not in need of being saved from anything.
Yet, Chinese students can resonate deeply with the feeling of shame. For them, shame is more than just embarrassment. It is a failure to exemplify honor, which is a chief value in their culture. So, we should seek to help our Chinese friend understand that the shame they feel actually comes from rejecting God. And, salvation means a restoration to the true honor that only God can bestow upon them.
A practical way to further explain sin to your Chinese friend would be to read or share the story of the Prodigal Son. The son acts in a way that any Chinese person would see as incredibly shameful. You might ask, “What if your parents provided you with everything and then you wasted it on video games?” This scenario actually happens very often, as parents in China send their children to college and they throw away the opportunity for passing pleasures. It is a phenomenon that is seen as highly shameful.
It is important to help your Chinese friend see that in one way or another we have all shamefully rejected our Father. And, more importantly, that when we make one small move toward Him, He comes to us. We have been so shameful that there is no way for us to return – no matter how hard we try to undo or cover our shame we will fail.
Sharing this story to illustrate our sin problem sets up for presenting the solution – the cross of Jesus Christ, which we will discuss in the next article.
Questions to consider:
- How might your understanding of sin as guilt from doing wrong, be perceived differently from your Chinese friend?
- Do you remember a time when you felt an immense amount of shame? How can you communicate your experience so that your Chinese friend might understand how sin has separated them from God?