May you be blessed by the Lord in the year of the goat! (22 Feb 2015)

羊  年  蒙  主  恩 [1]

Questions as to ‘What is culture?’ and ‘What is religious?’ crops up and becomes a talking point each time occasions such as Chinese New Year descends on us – e.g., the reciting of auspicious phrases while tossing 鱼生 yusheng (or even simply tossing and consuming it), giving (and receiving) of red packets and mandarin oranges, hanging of pineapples, couplets and red banners, etc).  The fact of the matter is that Chinese New Year is filled with all kinds of religious, paganistic and superstitious connotations.[2]  Where and how then do we draw the line?

Some years ago, there was a saying in China that goes, ‘多一个基督徒,就少一个中国人’.[3] I really cannot say for sure the history behind it.  But my guess would be that it resulted from similar sentiments in some quarters in Singapore, where we hear accusations, decrying the abandonment of Chinese practices and traditions, in the name of being a Christian.

But praise God, we have over the years seen Christians in China being able to differentiate between culture and religion, so that what we see today are Chinese Christians in China who are proud of their roots and heritage, while at the same time being identified as Christians.  This has resulted in another popular phrase, 多一个基督徒,就多一个中国好公民’.[4]

May the Lord give us discernment as we wrestle through some of these issues so that we can stand tall in our Christian commitment.  Instead of having to lose our Chinese distinctive, or keeping at arm’s length from what we perceive as religious, paganistic or superstitious, we can actually use our knowledge of such realities as gospel bridges.

Acts 17 records Paul in Athens, a city filled with paganism.  It is fascinating to note that in his engagement with the unbelievers there, what he did was actually quoting from their poets of old, using it as a bridge to present the gospel.[5]  Quoting Matthew Henry, Paul used what he knew to his advantage, ‘. . .  for it enables him to beat them at their own weapons, and to cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword’.[6]

Let us make use of Chinese New Year in making Jesus known.

Blessed Lunar New Year 2015.

Elder Richard Lai

[1] May you be blessed by the Lord in the year of the goat.
[2] Using the broom on the right day and sweeping in the right direction before a particular time, paying respects to the Kitchen God and God of Fortune, etc.
[3] Another Christian means another lesser Chinese National.
[4] Another Christian means another good Chinese National.
[5] See especially vvs. 22-30.