Preconceptions and Possibility

Wa Christians listen to a sermon at a local training center.

“We’ll never conquer evil if we launch a frontal assault. If we do that we may incorporate ourselves into the energy and the weapons of evil. We end up turning into what we hate. That’s why Jesus told us to love our enemies; otherwise we become just like them. Hitler is thought to have said that the wonderful thing about Nazism was that all those who directly attacked it became fascists themselves in the process. The U.S.A. has a lofty self-image and thinks it conquered fascism. Nevertheless America has supported extreme right-wing regimes in Guatemala, El Salvador, and South Africa. You hardly ever see your own sin; you tend to rationalize your sin away as virtue. For this reason we need help recognizing that we ourselves are a mixture of good and evil.” –Richard Rohr, Simplicity

Last night while scrolling through photos of our recent journey to Yunnan and telling some friends about what God is doing in the minority churches and through local leaders, both government and church, these words from Richard Rohr came to mind. The fact is, many of we foreigners come to China with a host of preconceptions about the Chinese Church and its relationship to the government, and unfortunately these preconceptions are rarely productive in that they blind us from our own sin, as Rohr talks about above, and they lead us to believe we know the best way to confront the complicated relationship between the church and the government in China.

As we visited with churches in the countryside of Yunnan these past few weeks, many of these Christians boldly proclaimed their resolution to wait on the Lord, to work alongside the government for change, and to in effect, as Rohr says, love all those, even enemies, in order to rise above the mistakes of the past and avoid these same mistakes in the future. We also met government leaders who support the church and believe in many ways that the church serves as a light to the local community. But two things were for certain: these relationships were never simple, never without tension, and Evan and I have a long way to go in understanding and fathoming them.

Rohr goes onto to acknowledge that Mother Teresa found Americans, so bent on freedom, the most unfree people she had ever met, because they were paralyzed by possibility. Similarly, Rohr himself says we try to buy into political systems that “promise us quick and easy security, instead of living in this essential insecurity, in this deep inner poverty, where we really grow in wisdom. It’s in the school of victims that we learn something, not the school of the winners, not the school of security.” If you read my blog regularly, you’ll recall that I struggle with this insecurity myself, and yet I know my insecurity is nothing when compared with my brothers and sisters living a life of subsistence, cash poor, without access to education and healthcare, and traversing not only rocky mountains, but these tricky relationships between church and governance in Yunnan.

But Jesus says such is theirs the kingdom of heaven, not the bed of security, but the heart of wisdom.   I was humbled to experience such spiritual wisdom this past week. Those who cry out for training, Biblical and education, and knowledge, at the same time exhibit the movement of the Holy Spirit, freedom, and goodness, practically beyond recognition. God does God’s work in spite of our privileged plans, our secure systems, our progressive dreams, and I pray that I can release all these preconceptions that trap me, that prevent me from being an instrument of the Holy Spirit, a faithful follower of God’s vision and not my own.

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