Hi everyone. This is my first post here at Relevant Christian, and I hope my posts will be of some use to you and that I’ll fit in nicely into this little family.
First, a little bit about myself for some background on the topic of this post.
Growing up in a Christian home with a father who struggled with his faith as a teen, who got the calling to become a pastor, and was denounced by his entire family, I had a lot to live up to. I learned a lot from my amazing father, who is now the head of A Kernal of Wheat Ministries (akow.org), a Chinese publication ministry translating good English books and reference books for Chinese Christians.
With this very solid theological knowledge background from my family and from growing up sitting in with my parents at their in-house Bible study ministries, I moved with my parents when they came to the United States when I was ten.
This is a completely new world.
As a college student in Los Angeles, stereotypically land of the sinners and promiscuous crazies, I face many different choices. Growing up close to my father, I have seen that even within the same denomination of God’s church, politics occur. There are belief differences. Subtleties in theology that cannot be reconciled between members and leaders.
How can I bring this experience to be relevant to my life on the college campus, at my rather liberal Evangelical church (I was raised with a Lutheran and Baptist background, depending on whichever church my parents were attending or pastoring at)? At my fellowship? To my non-Christian roommates and in class? In response to the things happening in our culture and in our world? How do I respond to this country’s media? Or even to the more controversial media of my home country, Taiwan?
I’ll attempt to go into a little bit of this strange cross-culture life I live, here in this post.
This came up in the last Bible study in my church’s college fellowship, and I thought I would share with everyone here. The passage in question was 1 Corinthinans 10, and a heated discussion resulted in my small group resulted because of it. (By the way, from here on in, I’m going to be quoting NIV).
Because we’re an Asian-American church, with the majority of us from the Taiwanese heritage, there was definitely an issue with idol feasts for us.
One guy, we’ll call him J, brought up the fact that he’s the eldest son of the eldest son… which means that when his paternal grandfather dies, it is his duty to perform some of the ritual ceremonies of the funeral. This includes sacrificial food, burning of paper money for the afterlife, ancestor worship… praying to the gods that his grandfather will pass peacefully.
You can see the problem that came up. J was torn between two things… he personally didn’t think that doing the ceremony was a problem (but I did.. more on that later), and he thought that he wouldn’t stumble anyone by eating that food and by going through the motions (he cited verse 32, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—”
I not only thought that it was wrong to even participate—“18 Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?”
You see, I am lucky because, though I am the eldest child (even a woman still has some duties when she’s the eldest) of the eldest son, I am lucky in that my father has already made a choice. When his grandfather died (and he was… the eldest son of the eldest son), he chose to decline his duties and say his goodbyes respectfully his own way. Should I ever have to make this choice, I am lucky that my immediate family will never denounce me the way my father’s denounced him.
So that’s my position on whether we should be doing it at all.
Since J disagrees with me though, there are other issues at hand. What he really wanted to know was… does it stumble his family or help his family, for him to refuse to do his duties? Would he have a better chance evangelizing to them if he offended them so deeply that he refused to follow tradition? Or would he be displaying the kind of unbending faith that may lead them to wonder what is this God he believes in? For me, the key in the second half of 1 Corinthians 10 is in verse 23-24 “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”
This is repeated in verses 31-33: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
These are the verses that were heavily under debate in our small group. Would it stumble his parents or bless his parents for him to refuse? Or for him to go through the motions of traditional ceremony?
To me, verses 27-30 said it all.
27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake[d]— 29 the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
J still disagreed, but I encouraged him to talk to our pastors about it. He responded that oh, he already had! And that the pastors had responded that it wasn’t bad to go through the motions, and that it was really up to J whether he wants to do it or not. To us as a Chinese people, these rites are so important and have been done for thousands of years… is it wrong to pay our respects? I think so.
We are called to a faith that’s not easy. It is not easy to live a life of Christ. It is not easy to be a Christ-follower though it is easy to be what the world sees as a Christian.
Am I just overly conservative and nutty or is my pastor a little bit mislead? What do you think?
Well, there’s my two cents. I Want to hear yours.
PS: I apologize for inflicting this horrifically long post on you all, and I promise they won’t be this long again.