My Dear Friend,
Today China, our beloved nation, has embarked upon an era of great change and great uncertainty. Where we are headed no one knows for sure, but many of us maintain a kind of cautious optimism as from a distance we watch events unfolding. Who will replace Deng Xiaoping? Will he be liberal or conservative? Will private enterprise be allowed to continue to expand? Will a privatized economy bring to each citizen the dignity and prosperity we have longed for? For those of us studying overseas, will the future hold opportunity or frustration? These questions and many more wait quietly for answers as we press on toward getting our degrees here in America.
There is another question, however, that is occurring to a small but ever-increasing number of us: “Is it possible that my life and my efforts can make a significant contribution toward the direction of China’s future? It is for this ever-increasing group of friends that I write my letters trusting that inspiration, hope, and discussion will result. This particular letter, the third in a five-part series, examines the role and purpose of the family as the foundational element in building a strong and prosperous society.
As I wrote in my last letter, the family is one of five jurisdictions or five areas that constitute a society as outlined in the Bible. The other four are self government, church government, business or commerce, and lastly civil government. It is only when each of these jurisdictions within a nation is following biblical guidelines that peace, prosperity, and liberty result. There can be no lasting peace or prosperity in any nation, anywhere, without embracing the Bible, for the Bible is the “instruction manual” for living written by our Creator. This truth applies to each of us as individuals as well as to society as a whole.
Before beginning a discussion on what a family should be, it might be helpful to look at what a family should not be, especially relating to our recent history in China.
The family unit in China has always been strong. Lasting marriages, respect for parental authority, and mothers nurturing children in the home have been strong points in particular. In fact, until the dawn of communism, the family was so strong that we actually worshiped our ancestors as if they, like gods, could somehow influence the flow of events in our lives. This, of course, was a false belief.
Probably Mao’s greatest contribution to China (although he did not realize it or intend it to be) was the virtual elimination of ancestor worship, which for many centuries blinded our people from seeing the truth of Jesus Christ. Because of Chairman Mao’s great contribution, many thousands of Chinese are becoming Christians every day! In fact, Christianity is spreading so rapidly in China that church leaders all over the world agree that in the 2,000 years of church history, there has never been such a rapid spread of Christianity in any one nation! Of course Chairman Mao, who hated Christianity, did not intend this to be the result of his purge, yet an unseen hand much more powerful than that of our former Chairman clearly has been at work in our country.
Unfortunately many of Chairman Mao’s other ideas have proven to be quite costly and quite painful especially to the family. We have all learned in a very personal way that ideas have consequences. For example, one of Chairman Mao’s most devastating tenets that still grips our nation today was the concept that the family is subservient to the state. The family exists to further the best interests of the state. The state, in essence, is God. All rights flow from it. All things exist for its benefit. Children unfortunately are no exception. Parents are allowed to keep children as long as their beliefs do not contradict those of the state. The state dictates the number. The state dictates what they will be taught and where. The state dictates where the children will eventually work and how much they will be paid. The state, in reality, owns the children. As we will discuss shortly, this concept directly contradicts our Creator’s “instruction manual” for successful living and therefore cannot produce its desired effect – a happy and prosperous society. Yes, bad ideas have bad consequences. The problem is that it often takes more than one generation before we can observe the full outworking of wrong thinking. Ideas are like seeds. When a ruler plants the seeds of a new political philosophy, it takes many years until the tree is fully grown and the fruit is ready to be eaten. The quality of the seed can then be judged by the quality of the fruit it has produced. Unfortunately the fruit of state-owned children and state-run families has been very bitter.
Under this system, we have had little to guide us in what a family is supposed to be except to advance the dialectic-materialism process. Now with these tired old ideas finally exposed as being false, we have even less to guide us. The emerging Chinese family is like a ship without an anchor adrift at the mercy of the wind and waves. There is no unchanging standard to guide the family and nothing to hold a family together.
Disrespect for parental authority and a skyrocketing divorce rate are just two of the recent fruits of the Chinese family set adrift. Recognizing the problem, many of us are looking to the West for solutions. An honest evaluation, however, reveals that the West has very little to offer. The family in America is in even worse condition than our own. The divorce rate hovers at 50 percent, while the breakdown of parental authority has produced a generation of undisciplined, lazy, and rebellious adolescents. One need only take a trip to the local supermarket to observe many mothers at the mercy of their screaming little children demanding to have their own way. One can only imagine what the United States will be like when this generation reaches adulthood.
It would be a grave mistake, however, to connect the modern American family with Christianity. The vast majority of American families are not Christian at all, but like our families have no moral moorings. America today is a nation in transition, having largely abandoned the Christian ideals that originally brought the prosperity that is still being enjoyed. This prosperity will not last, however, as the fruit of abandonment is still maturing. What I am saying is that unless America returns to the Christian faith that made her great, very difficult times lie ahead.
The Bible: China’s Answer
Let us turn now to the only unchanging, totally reliable source for family guidance – the Bible. First, let me ask basic questions. If there is a Creator, as the Bible teaches, who has very carefully ordered the universe, then would it not stand to reason that He alone possesses, the blueprint for how things are supposed to run? And would it not also stand to reason when His guidelines are ignored and violated that unhappy consequences would result? It doesn’t matter how intelligent Karl Marx or Mao Tsetung may have been. Their ideas simply will not work when contrary to God’s blueprint – the Bible.
The family, we can conclude, must be very important to God because instructions for its operation appear over and over throughout the entire Bible. These instructions have nothing to do with nationality but are universal. When these instructions are wholeheartedly followed, strong, responsible, productive, happy citizens will result.
According to the Bible, the family begins with the act of marriage. This union is regarded by God as sacred and permanent. For the true Christian, divorce is not an option because he or she understands that it is God who puts people together and commands that “what God has put together let no person separate” (Matthew 19:6 NIV). The true Christian has surrendered complete control of his or her life to a loving Creator who has promised that “whoever puts their trust in Me will never be disappointed” (Romans 9:33 NIV). Therefore the true Christian can rest confidently, knowing that God Himself is intimately involved on a daily basis with supporting the marriage union. Without God at the very center of a marriage, however, we are left with only our feelings to rely upon, which often times change from day to day.
For example, the most common reason given for divorce is that either one or both of the partners no longer loves the other. The problem with this logic lies in the definition of the word “love.” The modern thinking tells us that love is a kind of magical sensation that somehow floods our minds with warm, beautiful, thoughts toward our partner. When the stress and pressure of life’s difficult challenges come, however, these feelings of warmth and bliss often times fade away, leaving us to conclude that we are no longer “in love.” Tolerance of the other’s shortcomings becomes unbearable and divorce seems inevitable. How sad and tragic it is to see so many Chinese couples here in America ending their marriages in divorce without ever experiencing the true love that can only be found in a marriage centered in Jesus Christ.
You see, love is not a feeling subject to change, but rather a decision. It is an action – a verb if you will. It is also unconditional, meaning that it requires nothing in return. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible gives us a clear picture of what true love really is:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV).
Love, by this definition, is quite different from the modern self-centered concept. It is one of constant giving, preferring the needs of one’s partner above one’s own, and is in reality a picture of God’s unfailing love toward us. Jesus, Himself, demonstrated the depth of his love by dying on a cross in our place that we could be forgiven of our selfishness. Because Jesus rose from the dead three days after being crucified, He has also made available to us not only forgiveness for our selfishness, but the supernatural power to love unconditionally.
When two people enter into marriage totally committed to this kind of love, divorce no longer is a possibility. As the years go by of facing life’s challenges together, with Jesus always at the center, a deep river of admiration, appreciation, respect, trust, and fulfillment flows between them that far surpasses the shallow, fleeting, cheap feelings many of us mistakenly call love.
This is the beginning of a family structured according to our Creator’s blueprint and is the building block upon which great nations are built. There are no short cuts.
The Three Purposes of the Family
This then leads us once again back to the Instruction Manual to discover God’s purpose for the family. This magnificent Creator who has so meticulously placed His stamp of order on all His creation from the tiniest sub-atomic particle to the largest galaxy has purpose in everything He does. The family is no exception. God’s intention is that through Christian families, all the families of the earth will be given the opportunity to experience His love and security.
To Model His Character
To accomplish this, the family must first be a model of His peace, His love, and His order so that those who have not yet come to realize that there is a God may be able to experience His love and concern for them through that family. In other words, the Christian family is to be like a light in a dark room that shines with the love of Jesus and conveys His love for all people. Thousands of us Chinese in America who have become Christians were first touched by seeing God’s love in operation in a Christian home. See the testimony on page 7 of fellow student Lee Ishin, for example.
To Reproduce and Provide Care for Children
Second, the family is to produce children and provide for their well being. The first command given to the first family (Adam and Eve) was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28). Here again is another area where wrong thinking has produced disastrous consequences in our country. The one-child policy runs directly opposite God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, and is based on faulty scientific data. There is no population problem in the world or in China. What we have is a resource-management problem brought on because we have violated many of our Creator’s instructions. We will discuss this particular issue in depth in future letters, but let me briefly offer two examples that demonstrate my point and should provoke us to rethink some of our assumptions. First, relating to the popularly held belief that the earth is overcrowded, all the people alive in the world today could easily fit on Hainan Island with 15 square feet per person.1 Second, relating to the reported shortage of food supplies, enough food can be produced in five of the midwestern states of the United States to easily feed the entire world!2
What China needs is not less people, but a greater understanding of how to align our nation and resources with God’s Word. For example, if China’s production level was double or triple what it is today, there would be plenty for everyone. Turning to Jesus and following His blueprint automatically will cause our standard of living to rise exponentially. If God’s blessing were on our nation, we could easily sustain a much larger population than our present one billion.
Because our leaders have incorrectly diagnosed the problem, the “solution” will ultimately produce a much worse condition for our country.
Like me and every other Chinese son and daughter, you were undoubtedly taught to honor your parents. Has anyone besides me wondered who is going to care for the hundreds of millions of parents soon to be approaching old age? From where are the resources going to come? And what about brides for our sons? Has anyone besides me wondered where are the girls in the rising generation? Where have they gone? And what about abortion? If there is a God, then what must He think of the killing of our unborn? These questions and more concerning the Chinese family cannot be ignored if we are to fulfill God’s intention for China.
Training of Children
The third and probably most important role of the family is to provide for the training of children. God instructs parents that children are a gift from Him (Psalm 127:3, 1 Timothy 5:8) and that parents are to “train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). In these passages of Scripture and many others, God makes it clear that children are a gift from God for whose well-being and training He holds parents directly responsible.3 This training involves the child’s academic education and especially the child’s character development. Outside tutors and schools if needed should meet with the parents’ complete approval and be subject to their concerns. The state in God’s eyes does not own the children and has no right to indoctrinate them. They are actually owned by God and loaned to parents as a stewardship.
It is only in the Christian home that a child’s moral, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs can be met in such a way as to produce men and women able to sustain the burdens and responsibilities of a free nation. That is why history teaches us that it is only where Christianity has taken root that freedom results.
My dear friend, it is my sincere belief that there is a new Chinese family emerging. Quietly and unnoticed, there is a generation coming that loves the one true God, Jesus, above all things and understands the importance of fashioning its families after His divine pattern. I trust that these brief thoughts will prove helpful in your quest for truth, and that you too will know the joy of becoming a Christian family.