From the Exile Land to the Home Land
– The first message of a sermon series Why I Became Christian
I was an atheist – a Ph.D student in the School of Marxism Studies of the Renmin University of China. Prior to that, I had been a political cadre in the Weishu military district of Beijing; a soldier for twelve years. I was also a member of the Communist Party. Later on, I took part in the 1989 Democratic Movement. At that time, especially after the release of “River Elegy”, I gave reports and speeches from place to place, and became well recognized. We, too, thought we were enlightening and saving our country and our people. However, when I got home, I took off my facade and would begin abusing my wife and throwing things around. Once when I got really angry, I smashed most of our valuable things. I once cut up my wife’s favorite dress into pieces. She also has a strong personality and a quick temper. Therefore, our home was full of quarrels and arguments. Our marriage could hardly last. However, I didn’t think I had any problems at that time. I saw myself as a noble man pursuing a great career, and wondered why my wife couldn’t recognize my dignity. Now I know that that was because of my double personality.
Each one of us has this kind of duality. On the one hand, we have positions in fields of science, engineering, or liberal arts as scholars, writers, engineers, or entrepreneurs. On the other hand, we are just naked human beings. The best place to see who we really are is in the home. Knowledge is not a substitute for one’s life. No matter how knowledgeable you are, it cannot replace your temperament as a human being. Just because you are a reputable person doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a good person at home. However, I didn't see myself like that at that time. At that time, I saw myself as a great man. I couldn’t accept the fact that I had won the hearts of many others but not my wife’s. Now I know that I cannot win my wife’s heart with knowledge, nor with great visions for the nation, nor with money, and nor with fame. She only wants to know whether you are a good person or not. That is what makes for duality in our lives. On the one hand, we are scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers and writers after having studied physics, chemistry, geography and astronomy. On the other hand, we are just naked human beings. We readily ignore this duality which has assumed critical importance in our lives.
As a result of my participation in the June 4th Movement, I was under a nation-wide order to be arrested. I had no choice but exile. I fled to Paris via Hong Kong after hiding in place after place in China for one and half months. During the six months I spent in Paris, I joined the overseas democratic movement to set up the China Democratic Front, and edited the “China Democracy” magazine. Thank God that during that time He helped me to understand the intricacies of human nature. In the process of establishing the China Democratic Front, we, the great democrats, men and women with a great mission for the nation and a great concern for the people, were so selfish and power-driven. The dignity that we demonstrated at the time of the 1989 Democratic Movement was genuine, wasn’t it? – It was. The disgracefulness demonstrated by the same group of people in exile was also genuine, wasn’t it? – Yes, it was. I was really perplexed. How could this be?
While in exile, I became very weak and homesick. This was because I had been driven out of my country. Unlike you, who migrated voluntarily and willingly, I didn’t want to leave my country but I was forced to and thus I became particularly homesick. My daughter was only one and half years old when I left her behind with my wife. She was too little to flee with me, and I really missed her while in Paris. All of a sudden I found I was so weak. Shortly after, my father passed away at the age of 56. It had a lot to do with my exile, which had had given him so many frights. He died of a lung disease. Even though I was the oldest son I wasn’t able to look after him in his last hours. The biggest shock that his death brought to me was the impermanency of human life – it can be gone today even though it existed yesterday. All at once I felt the shadow of death getting closer to me. As the oldest son, I would most likely be the next one to die after my father. Therefore I praise God that he showed me the nature of humankind during my days of exile. What did He show me? That the human nature is weak, sinful, and subject to death. We don’t think about these things when times are good. I had never thought of these things when I was having a good time in Beijing. The insight I had into human nature aroused a spiritual thirst in me. I started to seek for, and to think why this was so, and whether there was a way out.
I remember the time a pastor came to the refugee camp to preach to us. We were still full of hatred at the time. He spoke for the whole afternoon and we were refuting him all the time. It was impossible to accept Christianity in our minds as it was too remote from our situation. However, one day, something wonderful happened in the bottom of my heart despite my reasoning. I visited Notre Dame Cathedral with Su Xiao-Kang, the arch author of “River Elegy”. As soon as we entered the Cathedral, I felt something different. I saw the statue of baby Jesus in the arms of Mary – the holy child with curly fair hair. As my daughter’s hair was also curly, I immediately thought of her when I saw the statue. I knelt down before Jesus, the holy child, without knowing why. I wept with my head bowed, my tears flowing like a stream. Su Xiao-Kang patted me on the shoulder but I didn’t have the strength to stand up. I felt particularly homesick at that moment. I couldn’t explain why I was so touched by the sight of Jesus, the holy child, but I wept for a long time. After that, Su and I both bought a necklace with a crucifix. We both asked someone to send the necklaces to our wives and children. We were atheists at that time and all we knew about the life of Jesus was His name. We had never been to church, but for some reason our hearts were touched once we entered one. I couldn’t hold back my tears once I saw the statue of Jesus.
One day I was wandering in the streets of Paris and saw a lot of cards with pictures, very similar to postcards. There were so many of them, some with beautiful landscapes, and others with magnificent architecture. None caught my eye. Until I saw a picture with Jesus nailed to a cross erected in the sky. Blue light reflected from the back of the cross to earth, where boats and fisherman were placed. My heart was touched again on seeing the picture. I bought four of the cards and sent one to my wife. I didn’t know why I was doing that and didn’t say anything to her. All I did was to enclose the picture in my letter. I still have three at home.
In retrospect, I have to say that all this was planned, and that God was working in my heart. When we are at our most helpless or when we are exposed to [the inadequacy of] our human nature, our hearts are most likely to be drawn to God and open up to God. We often hear it said that the end of humankind is the beginning for God. Why do we as human beings seek God and let God work in us only when we reach the end? That is because we can only see our nature when we reach the end of ourselves. Surely when our lives are going well and things are good, we can also be humble and come to the realization that our nature is weak, sinful and subject to death. God can work in you on that basis. However we are often too proud. I was too proud. I studied Marxism. I was a political cadre of the Liberation Army. I was a branch secretary of the Communist Party.
I would not have turned to salvation if I hadn’t reached the end of my resources. Therefore I am truly grateful to God for letting me get to that stage. At that time, although my mind was resisting the pastor and his preaching, theology, and doctrines, my heart was quietly longing for God, for Jesus, and for His salvation through the cross. I didn’t know why my heart was touched on seeing the crucifix, with His head bowed down. I became a visiting scholar at Princeton University when my father died. I held a private memorial ceremony for him, – I didn’t believe the Lord then – and I put his favorite food out as an offering in his memory. I didn’t have a photo of him and don’t know why I used the picture of the crucifix instead. I cried my eyes out all night. I don’t know why, my heart was longing for God, and attracted to God, and to Jesus, when my mind couldn't accept theology and doctrines.
I had a dream when I was in Paris. I remember clearly that it was the night of the day when the China Democratic Front was established. I had stayed behind in the office. When I was half asleep, I had a vision, a particularly clear vision where I was running. My brain was like a picture screen and I was running from right to left. Run, run, run. At one stage I was a dog, at another someone with three legs, like Charlie Chaplin, still another time an airplane, falling into the sea. I thought I was dying but then I became a fish in the ocean and could swim. The fish swam and swam, but then stopped. A blue light shone from above. Yes, I thought it was strange and tried to stop the picture but I couldn’t. However, later, when I didn’t want it to stop, it stopped. I was astonished. I got up and drew a picture of the last image I saw. Then, I wrote down some words. The first sentence was: “I was captured by terror yesterday, and you are captured by anger today. Now God is telling you to return to yourself. I don’t know why I used the word “God”. The last sentence I wrote was that “God came to me and called me to speak about Him”. That happened in 1990, eleven years ago. Only later, did I learn that fish represents the Salvation of Jesus. I had no knowledge of that, though, at the time of writing these words down.
I became a visiting scholar in Princeton University. Nearly twenty exile democrats were attending that University through a US five million dollar sponsorship by an American businessperson. After a meeting, a young woman came to invite us, “Will you come and join our activity tonight?” Some of us agreed to go as we didn’t have much to do anyway. We did end up in – A Bible study. We had thought it would be a party. Since we’d come, we’d better stay and eat; after we’d eaten, then what? We couldn’t just walk out after having eaten their food – we’d better to stay and see what these young people did. It was a university Bible study class was made up of people from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. They were singing, dancing, clapping their hands and stamping their feet – we were amazed. We watched for the whole night and then left. On our way home, we laughed about them – why were these folks so superstitious and worship-minded in modern times like this. Did they go through the Cultural Revolution? No, they hadn’t. Their worshiping style was so similar to those in the Cultural Revolution. With only minor changes, the songs that praised Chairman Mao can be used to praise Jesus. For example, that “the grace of the Party is greater than that of heaven and earth”; that “Chairman Mao is closer to you than your daddy or mummy”; that “when I see the sun I see you, dear Chairman Mao”; that “I yearn for Mao Zedong when I lift my head and see Charles’ Wain”.
There was also a book of quotation, a red booklet, which had the same absolute authority as the Bible. It was also held that the verses in the booklet could only be interpreted by the booklet itself. That is to say, one could only explain the words of Chairman Mao using his own words. Moreover, the way to “fight self-interest and criticize Revisionism” and the way to “initiate revolution in the depth of our soul” Maoism provided a similar way to confess and repent as Christianity. The Maoist way of “morning prayers for instructions and evening chants for thanks” was very similar to the Christian way of praying. That was why, when someone from the church drove a van to pick us up the following Friday, no one wanted to go. Some of us were living together at that time. One of our group said that he had to do some writing, another said he had a visitor. I was a soft touch and sorry to see him leaving with an empty van so I agreed to go, on behalf of all the others who were staying home. I went.
I attended a couple more times and was drawn to them. Drawn by what? Not by their style, nor their doctrine. I couldn’t understand any of their teaching – “your sin is cleansed by Jesus’ precious blood” – didn’t make any sense to me. It was grammatically incorrect, and logically faulty. I could accept neither the style nor the content. Why was I drawn to them? I liked the atmosphere and the people – they were friendly, genuine, loving and youthful. Why, being the same Mainland Chinese, had we lived such a miserable life? I am not talking about living standards, but about spiritual life. If you looked into their eyes, you could see sincerity, friendship and openness. If you looked into our eyes, the eyes of democrats, you could see sophistication and cunning. There was a huge difference. I usually sat on a corner of the sofa, enjoying the friendly, warm atmosphere. To me the little house was full of sunshine, joy and life, something that I had never experienced in Mainland China, nor among the great-minded intellectual elite. I was attracted. I longed for every Friday to come around. I usually didn’t speak when I was there.
They were studying the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, a very difficult book and one which I wouldn’t understand. But one day I understood something. The scripture spoke of faith; that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. I had studied philosophy so I thought the statement had a philosophical undertone. Why? What is faith? Faith is being sure of what you are still hoping for; and being certain of what you haven’t seen. That is faith. Faith as we understand it should not be called faith. It should rather be called comprehension or understanding. True faith is to believe what you still don’t comprehend and don’t understand. That is faith. If I gave a hundred dollars to my friend and let him spend it the way he liked, we would call that trust. If I gave you a hundred dollars only after you had told me the way you’d spend it, we wouldn’t call it trust. Since I liked the statement, I started to speak. Once I spoke they all said, “Yuan Zhi-Ming is speaking!” Then I asked them “Why you are so nice to us? And why you are so happy?” They were so nice to us and gave us whatever we needed. They taught us to drive, took us to or picked us up from the airport, took us shopping, did various things, virtually everything for us. They also took us to three dentists, who washed our teeth. There was one elderly sister who invited us for dinner every weekend and told us about gospel. We refuted her and she lost in every debate. Of course she couldn’t win the debates. But what did we discover? She was still smiling after losing and asked us to come for dinner next week. She also said “I will keep praying for you. Tell me what you need.” I thought, haven’t you just lost the debate? Why do you still believe in it? I found these people were wonderful but strange. So I asked them “Why you are like that?” They told me “Because Jesus is like that.” It was the love of Jesus that made them live out their lives with love. I didn’t understand it when they said it. They told me to read the four Gospels so I started to read the life of Jesus. I was truly moved.
I discovered that I had heard the name of Jesus, knowing he was the founder of Christianity, but I didn’t really know him. I had not really read the Bible, nor did I know Him personally. All I heard was how Marxists criticized Christianity. Actually, many great western thinkers and scientists don’t like the Christian religion, but they admire Jesus whole-heartedly. For example, Nietzsche, the biggest opponent of Christianity, admired Jesus, the Christ, without reservation. Another example is Chen Du-Xiu, an atheist, who fully admired Jesus. Great thinkers and littérateur such as Hegel, Kant, Goethe, Heine all really admired Jesus despite their criticism of the church. Sure, I have complaints about church, you have complaints about church, and pastors have complaints about church, but none of us has complaints about Jesus.
When I read about Jesus, I was immediately moved. His words pricked my heart like a needle, yet it was also like the breath of spring, or warming sunshine. His words were from heaven above, not from men. No man could say words like that. For example, I felt the hatred and resentment of my country and my family over their suffering. The poem I wrote on my father’s death started with these two lines: tears cannot wash away the resentment over my family and my nation; how can I carry such sorrow. That is to say, no tears could wash away my resentment. I was full of resentment and hatred. However, I read what Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I was cut to the heart when reading these words. How could I possibly love my enemies? How could I possibly pray for those who persecuted me when I was still full of hatred? He [Deng Xiao-Ping] persecuted me to the point of exile. He persecuted me and I separated me from my wife and daughter. He persecuted me and I was persecuted. How could I possibly pray for him? I read on. The next statement made by Jesus touched me at once. My atheism was challenged by that very next sentence. Listen carefully to what Jesus said. He said, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” “He” refers to God, the Creator of the universe. He created the sun, and lets the sun shine on everyone regardless of whether you are evil or good. He sends rain on everything and everybody regardless of whether you are righteous or unrighteous. God loves us so much, but we hate one another and plot against one another.
When I read that, I suddenly realized that when Jesus was talking to us human beings, he was representing the Lord of the universe. He pointed to the sun and rain when he spoke from above. He was not using the words of man. Jesus was speaking in the words of God, the words of the Creator. We could fell in our heart the difference [between human words and God’s words]. My soul began to tremble – I don’t know why – on hearing the holy and dignified voice, a voice that was full of kindness and love. Certainly my soul had wept before. When I was in Paris I wept, sought for, and was attracted by Jesus, but I didn’t know [Him]. Now Jesus was talking to me directly, oh! my heart, wow! was deeply moved.
I can still remember that I was lying in bed reading. After I read these words, I sat up at once and closed my eyes. I wanted to pray for my enemies, for those who were persecuting me, and for those I had hated. I wanted to obey Jesus’ word because His word was from heaven. I closed my eyes and wanted to pray for Deng Xiao-Ping and Li Peng but failed. Once I closed my eyes, the old saying that “what goes around comes around” and that “retribution always comes in time” came to my mind. I opened the Bible and read Jesus’ words again. Jesus said, “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Those words seemed to speak to me. I closed my eyes again but there was no way I could really love them and pray for them. I opened the Bible and read the words again, and closed my eyes; then read again, closed my eyes again, over and over again. My heart was finally at rest, and I obeyed God’s words.
What a hard thing it is for a person to obey God’s words! Even though you know that it is God’s word and you know that it is a heavenly voice, it is still not easy to escape the horror of your own sin and the shadow of your own hatred in order to obey Him. Understanding is one thing, but doing what you have understood is another. Praise God that after I had gone backwards and forwards, my heart was at peace. Even though I couldn't love Deng Xiao-Ping and his associates, at least I stopped hating them. I felt my heart was gradually rising with Jesus into the sky. I no longer saw the world the same way as Deng Xiao-Ping and Li Peng did. Since we are all sinners, it’s wrong to say that he is a sinner and I am not, so I am right to judge him. No, we are all sinners. We are all sinners before God and before Jesus, a God who is full of kindness, a God who is just like the sunshine, the air, and the rain, loving us unconditionally.
The earth is full of sin. What are we doing in a small planet like ours, suspended in the universe, provided with a sun which shines upon us from the right distance, with an atmosphere which gives us air in the right proportion, and with rains which moisture the earth? Look at the human race – we make guided missiles and A-bombs that could destroy the entire planet a hundred times over. What do we see on TV? And in the papers? We see kingdom rising against kingdom, nation against nation, party against party, and people against people. It is just like a father who has raised a big family of children with food, clothing, and all they need, but having the children fighting, full of strife, greed, envy and hatred, using their talents to produce weapons of destruction. How would the father feel? Therefore Jesus came and said that we must repent or we’ll die. My spiritual eyes were opened. All of sudden I saw God was talking to us and I saw the sin of humankind. I confessed my sin not because I had stolen or I had lost my temper, but because of my sin as a human being. We do not acknowledge God’s love. We think that we are the highest creature of the universe, that without us the globe will stop, and that the universe will lose its significance without us. This kind of human pride has caused our spiritual blindness, and the blindness of the human race has caused hatred between people, which in turn has led to the disasters that we all suffer.
On meeting Jesus, I discovered our sin. I started to become humble. Once I had confessed my sin, I discovered the universal sin with us. The enmity between Deng Xiao-Ping and me disappeared. Once I had discovered that we were, all sinners one way or another, I was at peace with myself. I was so pleased about this. If you come before God and acknowledge that you are a sinner and take Him as the Savior, that He is love and you are a sinner, and that there are differences between you and God, you will make no difference between yourself and others and therefore see no problem between yourself and others. If you view God as God, there will be no hatred between you and me, nor enmity, and therefore no problems. My heart was captured at once when I met Jesus. I quietly said, “Lord, thank You, You have begun salvation in me, and I have finally met you”. My heart was at peace. The iron chain of hatred was broken, and my heart began to unwind. What do you call blessing? I prayed, “God, is that the blessing you want to give me? You have enlightened my heart and given my heart rest. You have untied the knot of hatred in me. That’s right. This is the greatest blessing. The greatest blessing!”
From that very day, I began to read the Gospels in the Bible every day. I read a little bit each day and made only small progress. That was because I would meditate every few sentences. The more I meditated, the more I believed He was God, the more I believed that I was just a man, the more I saw that God was love, and the more sins I found in myself. Oh, isn’t that good? Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” When I read that verse, I was so delighted. I said [to myself], “I have met God for real as only God can talk like that”. We don’t talk like that. We do things for people to see them, but God says that don’t let people see what you are doing. Why? “Because I am God and am unseen. If you receive the reward from man you will have no reward from Me in heaven.” Well! I said [to myself], “I have met God for real”.
No one knew that I spent a honey moon with the Lord Jesus. A month later, an elderly sister in Christ asked me: “Brother Yuan, have you believed in the Lord? You look so different now.” I said, “I have.” The sister jumped up and hugged me, yelling: “Yuan Zhi-Ming has believed! Yuan Zhi-Ming has believed!” What is believing? That’s simple. To believe is to see yourself as a human being and as a sinner, but see Jesus as God coming to speak to you in the world and deliver God’s gospel of love. That’s believing. A couple of days later, our pastor came to my place to pray for me. I can recall vividly when Pastor Zhang Lin-Zhi came to my place, held my hands, and asked me to do say a prayer of confession sentence by sentence after him. When I had finished praying, I found my face was wet with tears. When the pastor saw I was weeping, his eyes were also filled with tears.
That night, I prayed a very serious prayer. I switched off the lights and knelt down beside my bed. You know that things are quite different after you have said a prayer of confession. Saying a confession prayer is to confess in public before people. It is as serious as the fact that the other half belongs to you once you get married. You can always pull back when you are dating. But getting married is different. Neither can withdraw once the wedding is over. Nowadays people often say, “Too bad, we are married.” That is because when you love one another you don’t see the relationship as bondage. You may still be able to enjoy the relationship straight after the wedding, but things can be quite different several years later. I have been married to Jesus for eleven years and I am getting happier and happier, and finding it more and more meaningful. The attractiveness for a person fades over time as conflicts develop. However, when you follow God, read the Bible, and experience the abundance of Jesus, oh, how that abundance really draws you towards Him.
Why did I want to pray such a serious prayer that night? It was because I had confessed, and this confession made a great difference in me. It was made known by God, by people around me, by the pastor, by the world, and by my democrat friends. That was a big decision. I knelt down to pray. I switched off the light but couldn’t say a word for a long time. When I uttered the first few words, “Dear heavenly Father,” my tears started to flow. I didn’t know why I was weeping. Was it for sorrow or for joy? I was like a lost son coming back to his father after all the hurt and torment. Certainly I thought of my earthly father who had died. I came before my heavenly Father, the father of my soul, so my soul found its place in its hometown, its yard, its home, where it belonged. I knelt down before Him as my own father. What a wonderful experience. My tears couldn’t stop flowing, nor could I utter any more words.
My first time prayer had no words, just tears. All I managed to say was “Dear heavenly Father.” But I knew God, my heavenly Father, had embraced me and accepted me. I was very certain of this. The title of my first testimony was “Rushing Toward the Hometown of My Dream”. Only when we have entered God’s embrace, will we discover that it is our home land. When we don’t know Him, and don’t enter into Him, we seem to be still seeking. Seeking and seeking, our souls are seeking a home. Although we have a physical home, our souls don’t have a spiritual home. We don’t know where our home is until we meet Jesus, find our home in Him, and realize that it is the home for our souls. Every word he said echoes deep down in my heart, the way a sheep knows the voice of the shepherd. Life finds its source and the soul finds its home, a home that is full of love.
I realized at that moment that death has no meaning in eternal love, and that human sin had no meaning before God’s love. What is meaningful then? – The meaningless human life finds its meaning in eternal love. I learnt about my sin which I had not known before. I thought I was righteous until I came before God and found that every person is a sinner.
The church in Princeton University has two baptism ceremonies each year. The pastor informed me that the spring ceremony was scheduled to be on the Lord’s Day, the 28th April. The Lord’s Day, April 28th 1991, was the first anniversary of my earthly father’s death. He died on the 28th April 1990. I was supposed to be in the show of “River Elegy” in Frankfurt, Germany on that particular day. The pastor said, “We could change the baptism date for you.” I said, “No, please don’t. Let it be that date. I’ll try and come back before then.” Why? I said to God during prayer at night, “God, as You know, on this date last year, I lost my earthly father; on the same date a year later, You will be my heavenly Father.” This date should not be changed so I came back ahead of schedule.
When I was returning from Frankfurt, the American Consulate refused to issue me a visa because I was holding a French passport. They told me to take my French passport to Paris for a visa. It was really frustrating. However since I had came to faith, and made a prayer of confession, I knew I belonged to Him. I prayed to God, “God, it’s Your business. You are accountable if I cannot go back. You are an Almighty Father and are in control of everything. I am going back for nothing else but to confess that You’re my Father, and to be baptized.” So I didn’t worry at all. I went to Heidelberg to make the speech. When I arrived at the Fortress, I received a call from the Consulate, “Please come for your visa.” I returned by train after the speech. When I got my visa, I asked my friend to translate my question to the visa officer, “Why did you grant my visa today when you refused it yesterday?” He said, “You should be grateful that you have a good friend.” Even now I don’t understand what he meant. Who is my good friend? I had no friends in Germany. I knew no one in an official role or in Parliament. Now I know who it is – Jesus is my good friend.
Miraculous – that’s the way God does things. If He doesn’t do wonders then He isn’t God. If you can understand and make sense of everything God does, then He isn’t God. Why do you have to believe Him? To believe God is to believe a God that is full of wonders. Just like what we northern Chinese say, “It is a wonder!” What does that mean? Wonder is something that you cannot understand. Meng-Zi said, “That which is holy and unknowable is God”, someone with holiness, greatness, glory and authority. You can never fully understand Him. That which is holy and unknowable is God. Of course I am not saying that you should have a muddleheaded faith, believing everything people say. That is superstition. You must be clear about what you believe. What you come to believe is the true and only God, the Creator of the universe. He provides us with heaven and earth and all it contains. He showed His love to us through Jesus. You must know this absolutely clearly. You are not here to believe Bodhisattva or Buddha, nor yourself, nor idols. Having said that, you should also know that you will never fully comprehend the deeds, the wonders and the mysteries of the God you believe with such absolute clarity. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
At that time, there was no way to defeat me except by miracles. I wouldn’t have come to faith through lectures on theology. When I was in Princeton University, a theologist said to me, “Yuan Zhi-Ming, I can answer any questions related to the Bible. I won’t say that for non-biblical stuff, but I know the Bible inside out.” So I asked him a question, “The serpent was cursed to crawl on his belly. How had the serpent moved along before that curse?” He gave it a thought then said, “Well, I cannot really answer you.” I asked him a number of questions that he could not answer. God is spirit. – How did He make garments of skin for Adam and Eve? – How can we possibly know all these things? To be honest, as a former philosophy major, I have to say that there is no philosophical ground in theology because it is grounded in faith, in invisibles, and in things hoped for. How can theology possibly meet the logical requirement of philosophy? However, it meets the spiritual logic of our heart. Although I refused the preaching of that pastor at the refugee camp, I wept and was attracted to Jesus when my soul met Him. I was attracted to those brothers and sisters in Christ in Princeton University, who were full of peace, joy and sincerity. I didn’t understand what they said, but I was drawn to the vitality manifested in their lives. This is what I know. I saw Jesus, and I got to know Him.
My life has been turned around since I came to faith. Hatred was removed, as well as my bad temper. When I was in Beijing, my wife and I nearly divorced after years of quarrels. Her mother tried to talk us out of it, my mother tried to talk us out of it, but it made no difference. We sat down, discussed, and came to the conclusion that we didn’t suit each other so we shouldn’t live together. She felt the same when she came to the U.S. She didn't want to stay in the marriage when she came. She knew how bad my temper was and said, “There is no way that you can change your temper. Let’s get divorced once I get there. The U.S. is a free country. Besides, we won’t have family around us there.” But I said to her, “Wait until you arrive and you’ll see, I’ve changed. I’ll be a good husband now.” She didn’t believe me. She really didn’t believe me. When she came, she found out for herself, wow, that I had really changed.
Nonetheless, there was one more outburst. I believe, though, that it happened in God’s will. Why did I get so cross? It was because she wanted to stop me going to church. She said, “You should study hard to improve your English, go on to do further study, and get a degree of some sort. Don’t mix with them [i.e. Christians] all the time.” When she first went to church, an elderly sister said to her, “Ah, you’ve come. We have been praying for you for a long time. Isn’t that good that Brother Yuan has trusted in the Lord? You should also come to faith soon.” My wife said, “Well, let me think about it.” The elderly sister said, “There is no time to think. You don’t have much time left.” If you are a Christian you will know what that means. It refers to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. The elderly sister is a Godly person. But my wife was upset. She said to me when we got home, “How could she say that! I only arrived in the U.S. a few days ago, yet she’s telling me that I don’t have much time left. I won’t go there again.” She didn’t want me to go either. I got really angry with her at dinner time that evening. I thumped the table, and all the plates, bowls and chop sticks fell off the table. Crash! My wife was so frightened. She took three steps back and said quietly, “Aren’t you a Christian? Haven’t you changed into a good man?” The spirit of God came to my heart on hearing her words. Immediately my head cleared, and I said to her with smile, “I just want you to see what I would have been like if I was not a Christian.” It must be God who inspired me to say these words to speak with such calm. She suddenly realized that, “oh, yes, he had really changed that he hadn’t lost temper with me over the previous two months since I arrived”. Praise the Lord. It was in God’s plan.
Is it normal for husbands and wives to have quarrels between them? It is. Every family has its quarrels. Normal families have quarrels. Praise God, when we both believed in the Lord, it became a hard thing to start arguing. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Why do husbands and wives argue? It is because we focus on each other’s sin and think we are good. We often hear people say in quarrels, “Look at your manners!” “Look at your manners!” The reality is that neither has good manners. We scrutinize the other person’s faults with a magnifying glass in one hand and a torch in the other. Things get worse and worse that way. Even a wise judge cannot make the right decision regarding household quarrels. After coming to faith, we start to focus on our own sins rather than on the sins of the other. If we all confess our own sins, life will be much easier. We won’t use the magnifying glass and the torch to attack the other person. Who are we taking on then? We come to see all the filthy stuff in ourselves in a big mirror. The big mirror is God and God’s love. Our sins are exposed before the love of God. Acting like this, husbands and wives won’t have big quarrels. Differences in opinions can be discussed. Even if we raise our voices in the discussion, that still doesn’t really matter. I will share another incident that I remember very clearly. Praise the Lord that my daughter believed in the Lord with a simple faith shortly after she came to the U.S. She was only six or seven years old at that time. One day, I started a quarrel with my wife in the kitchen regarding some trivial matters such as what to cook. My daughter quietly passed a note to me, with a few words – “Are you a Christian?” My face blushed when I read the words. I went to my room, knelt down, confessed and prayed. My eyes were still red when I came out of the room. My wife didn't bring it up again when she saw my eyes.
God is our salvation. When does He save us? He saves us when we cannot save ourselves. He can calm you down when you are unable to control yourself and have no choice but to explode. He can hold your hands if you are a thief and are about to stretch your hand out to steal. He can remove your hatred when you hate somebody. He can remove your envy when you become envious of someone. Our nature is reflected in the mirror of God and by confessing our sins. Once we see our nature in the mirror, we can no longer hate others, nor can we not forgive others. Therefore everyone who confesses his/her own sins will be able to forgive others. I won’t say there will be no quarrels or differences of opinions between my wife and me. There will always be differences between us. Nonetheless, praise God that there is also a solution for every problem as long as God lives with us, and Jesus lives in us. Moreover, what I have found is that love is the solution to all family problems and all marriage problems. In the past, we didn’t know this so we always tried to use reason to solve our problems, or find a third party to judge, to argue, to persuade, and to help the other party to understand. None of these strategies worked. You never go into domestic disputes clear-headed. Only love, muddleheaded love, unconditional love – that is, to love him or her regardless of what he or she does – can solve all the problems.
Let me give you an example. This is what I’ve learnt. If your wife gets upset again, don’t try to reason with her because the more you reason, the angrier she will become. Even if you give a wonderful explanation of the things about which you are absolutely correct, it doesn’t help her to cool down. It is never an issue of correctness in the first place. What I’ve discovered is, according to God’s instruction, to solve everything with love and to cover every sin with love. What I normally do is to give her a hug. I’ve just started to adopt this new way, so you can do this too. Never try to convince your wife or your husband with reason. Close your mouth and stretch out your hands and hold her or him tightly. Don't talk. Talking will give you away. She may say “Stop doing this” when you first hug her, but hold her still regardless of what she says. I can assure you that she will calm down after a few minutes. What is love? This is love: unconditional love. Love is when someone great embraces someone not-so-great.
What is the love of God? The love of God is for the great to embrace the lesser. That is not human love. Human love is always reciprocal. If I love you, you must love me; if I love you but you don’t love me, I’ll kill you. This is what leads to murder in romance. If I love you and you love me, that’s fine. If you don’t love me and I don’t love you, we leave it at that, and that’s also fine. However, if I love you but you don't love me, things can turn out very bad. That’s why I am saying that love is reciprocal. So what is the love of God? God is much greater than us so He can tolerate us. If you’ve believed in God, your mind should become broader and broader to tolerate those that you don’t like, and those who are not likeable. Love those around you first. We Chinese are particularly fond of that saying: “Be the first to worry about the whole world before the world itself starts to worry; and be the last to rejoice after the whole world has been rejoicing.” Later on I found out that if I couldn’t be concerned with my wife’s worries before she realized it, and rejoice after she began rejoicing, nor with my neighbor's worries and rejoicing, how could I be possibly concerned with the problems of the whole world? Let us love those around us, every one of them, with the love which comes from God. If you are someone who has God dwell in your heart, your mind will be as broad as the sky, the sunshine, and the air.
God is always above men. Those who believe in God are also above others. Why? Because God is so great. We become great when we live in the greatness of God. We don’t have to bargain with the world any more. That’s how we can have a better life. If you want to have a better life, you must transcend [the ordinary]. If you want to win the heart of the other person, you must have greater love and a bigger heart than his/hers. If you want to have a better life in this world, you must stand higher than this world. After I believed in the Lord, I discovered a truth: that the greatest enjoyment comes from confessing one’s sin, forgiving the sins of others, and enjoying the love of God. It is very easy for someone who lives in the love of God to love others, to love himself/herself, to love their family, and to love those who are not so lovable. What is the most significant thing in life? It is not money, nor social status, nor reputation, nor health. It is love. With love, all these things start to shine. These things were only stones. Love touches them and turns them into gold. Without love, wealth, reputation, and social standing remain in darkness, or even become chains, bondage, and pride that can make our souls suffer.
Praise God. Over the last eleven years since I believed in the Lord, my days have got sweeter all the time. I often think, if I hadn’t become a Christian and if I hadn’t believed Jesus’ words eleven years ago, I don’t really know what I would have turned out like. It is very likely that my family would have separated, and that my daughter would have been a daughter in a single-parent home. My relationship with my wife was so fragile before the June 4th Movement. It was through that Movement that I was exposed to my own nature and got to know Him, who made me into a new man. My wife came to the U.S. afterwards. Our time together has been blessed ever since. Praise God. God is calling me, calling each one of us, and calling every family. For those who respond to His calling, and come before Him, He has prepared blessing for you. Truly, that’s from God.
Let’s bow out heads and pray. Today, if you are willing to open your heart and come before Him in spirit and truth, He will accept you regardless of whether you are already a Christian or not. He will give the love and the blessing that He has given to me and my family to you and your family so that you will also live a life of blessing. Let’s come before Him. Repeat what I say in your heart. Dear heavenly Father, God who loves me, I come today before You to thank You, and to thank You for everything that You gave to me. I want to come before Jesus to confess that I am a sinful and limited person. I pray that You will become my Savior, and the Lord of my life. I pray that You will give heavenly love and eternal blessing to me, to my family, and to my descendents, from now and for evermore. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
 Romanization of the Chinese word “People”. It is usually known as People University of China in the west.
 A six-episode TV documentary well known at the time.
 The 1989’s Democratic Movement ended tragically on June 4th so it is also known as the June 4th Movement.
 It is the name of a constellation.
 A slogan at the time attacking the Revisionist approach to Marxism by the socialist leaders of the Soviet Union
 A slogan at the time urging people to confess their selfishness, and any other anti-revolutionary sentiments.
 It was a daily routine at the time for the Chinese people to gather before Mao’s portrait at work every morning and bow to the portrait three times, after which, they would receive instructions from the superiors and start working. The same practice would be repeated at the end of the working day when the workers reported their work to the superiors.
 The National Chairman at the time.
 They were the leaders of the Chinese government who ordered the arrest of those involved in the June 4th Movement.
 In Chinese, the word “miraculous”, “wonder” and “God” can be the same word. Yuan is using a word game here.
 A famous quotation of Fan Zhong-Yan, an 11th Century Chinese intellectual.