There is a very old book titled A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. It’s about how he at the age of 18 set out from London to walk all the way across Europe to Constantinople. Amazing as it may sound, what makes his story even more powerful is that the year he went on this journey was the year that Hitler came to power in Germany. Despite impending evil that will devastate Central Europe, he and the people he meets along the way faced their future with goodness & hope. Throughout the journey the author never runs out of strangers whose kindness and friendship were unaffected by darkness to come, and their generosity & hospitality moved this young man’s heart in a powerful way guiding him to maturity.
This story resonated in my heart because we often believed that it is our environment that shapes us & influence our decisions, but I want to believe that the reverse is true. So what is inside us will impact and influence our environment, no matter how dominant or daunting it may be. Without such conviction, all we will see are overwhelming obstacles.
I think it’s quite easy on the mission field to get overwhelmed by the different environment we find ourselves in & conclude why certain things cannot be done or avoided pointing to differences in culture, beliefs & values. But I want to believe that the gospel message that convicted, captured and changed my heart will do the same here in Taiwan without us having to sugarcoat it. I still believe it is the truth, no matter how difficult to swallow, along with the power of the Spirit that will lead someone to a saving knowledge about Christ. Of course, it has to be done wisely, prayerfully & lovingly, but ultimately the gospel message is a hard message for anyone to embrace unless the Spirit is at work.
Romans 1:16 explains, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
There are no 2 cultures that are more opposite than the Jewish & Gentile cultures. Nevertheless, Paul never refrained from speaking boldly & clearly about Jesus Christ & Him crucified.
In the Mandarin Bible the word “sin” is translated as “crime.” It may not sound like much of a difference, but their meaning is worlds apart. Although “sin” encompasses our act of committing crime against God, the word “crime” doesn’t necessarily touch the truth about our sinfulness from birth (original sin) nor our imputed sin. So you have a decision to make. Do you leave it at “crime”, which doesn’t give a complete picture of sin or do you make the strenuous effort to explain our total depravity? The latter will definitely be more challenging & possibly offensive, but it is what leads us to truly understand what Christ has done on the cross on our behalf.
Why am I talking about this? It’s because it is quite easy for us to allow our environment to define what’s possible and what is not, and also dictate our approaches & the words we speak. But I feel that man’s lostness, his longing for love unconditional, his problem with sinfulness & his need to be reconciled to his Creator are all heart issues of man. When the gospel is communicated, the grace of God will stir something within the listener, and no environment nor any man’s wisdom or sensitivity will be able to prevent or further what God is determined to do. All we can do is to share the gospel faithfully & accurately.
The truth about Christmas is not so much that it is a time of gifts although this is how our world treats it. In the extraordinary sense it’s really the time that God gave selflessly. He gave us His all. He gave us Himself. Such gift has the power to open the eyes of the human heart, wherever he may be. This is the hope we have as we move forward as He leads.