“So now you can talk about your faith in Chinese?”
It was a question I desperately wanted to answer yes to, after all that’s why I’m here – but saying yes felt a little like plunging off a cliff when I had no idea what questions would follow and if they would really be things I could explain in Chinese. (Resurrection has yet to come up in our Practical Audio-Visual Chinese textbook series. I’m sure it’s just in a later lesson.)
Easter worship was over and we were finishing up a love feast (aka potluck) and chatting over fruit and dessert. Once again my Buddhist former Chinese tutor and her husband drove down from Chiayi to worship with us and now her husband was sitting across from me, looking expectant and ready with his first question, “What does resurrection mean?”
“Well, you know. Jesus died and then he was alive again – really alive, with a body that people could see and touch.”
“But what is its significance? I know you believe when you die God will give you everlasting life. But what about right now? We still live in a world of problems. Isn’t God rather far away?”
“When Jesus rose and then went back to heaven, He promised to send His Spirit to live in us. God’s not far away at all; He’s with me in every circumstance.”
“You have to raise money to come here, right? What if you don’t get enough?”
“Well, God is good. I’ve just finished fundraising for this year. And I’ve seen so many times in my life and my parents’ lives how God provides exactly enough. That’s what we prayed in the Lord’s Prayer this morning – ‘give us today our daily bread’ – enough for the day. Tomorrow will worry about itself. But if I don’t get enough funding . . . there’s something Paul said – ”
(It was time to take out the bilingual Bible. There’s no way I’m paraphrasing Scripture in Chinese!)
We read together from Philippians, Mr. Lin prompting me on each Chinese word I didn’t know, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
We talked about how different Christianity is, how God’s greatest goal is not to give us a comfortable life or physical blessings but to draw us close to Him and to make us more like Him. That’s when I remembered a message I watched this week entitled “A Message to Those Who Kill Us” from a Coptic priest following the recent church bombings in Egypt. (If you haven’t seen that video, watch it! It’s a powerful testimony of what it means to be a follower of Christ.)
I explained that this priest’s two main points were: Thank you and we love you. And suddenly I felt like the Chinese vocabulary came so easily (“the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say”) as I explained how he could say these things to those who wanted to kill him, how the resurrection gives us hope and courage in the face of death, how Christ’s victory gives us love to forgive those who would harm us. This is what resurrection means.
By now my former tutor had also joined the conversation and a Friday Bible study student and a church member, and the questions just kept coming. Why does it matter if Christians really believe Jesus rose? (Pastor had mentioned in his sermon the number of Christians surveyed in the UK who said they no longer believe Jesus really rose from the dead.)
We talked about human logic and God’s Word and how desperately Satan wants Christians to stop trusting God’s Word and turn to our own thoughts. We looked at 1 Corinthians 15. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith . . . If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
“But why does that make your faith vain? Buddha had good teachings and I want to follow them. But he never claimed to die and rise again.”
Ah yes, only Jesus claimed that. Because Christianity is not about following good teaching, it’s about God’s powerful work to redeem the world, it’s about a victory over death, it’s a faith for eternity. The Bible says when I die I will rise again, but everything I see in this world says the opposite. So how can I know? Because God put a piece of the end of the story of history into the middle: He raised Christ for all to see and gave that to us as a certain promise of what’s to come.
Everyone started to chime in. My Bible study student explained Christianity’s hope for eternal life in clearer terms than I even knew he understood. My church sister (who’s also very fluent in English) got so excited talking about Jesus conquering death that I had to keep reminding her to use Chinese not English so everyone could understand. Resurrection means peace in the face of death, joy in the face of tragedy, hope for tomorrow and hope for eternity.
Lord, give us faith to have assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things unseen!
As my roommate and I played in a flute-viola duet this morning and no doubt many of you will sing:
This joyful Eastertide,
away with sin and sorrow!
My Love, the Crucified,
has sprung to life this morrow.
Had Christ, who once was slain,
Not burst his three-day prison,
our faith had been in vain;
but now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen
but now has Christ arisen!