Zoom In, Zoom Out

I’m absolutely amazed at how wrong I was about what kind of questions I would be facing here. And I never admit I am wrong, so you can be sure that I was really, really wrong. I really thought I’d be killing myself to prove to people that there was a God, that they were sinners, and that the Bible was true. It’d be pretty easy for me to deflect the blame here: almost any book you read tries to gear you up for the same junk. Almost any curriculum designed for use here spends tons of time on this “there really, really, really is a God… I promise” kind of teaching.

In fact, we’re working exclusively with college students right now, and out of all the possible demographics here in China, this should be the most problematic with these issues. After all, they’re the ones being subjected to Marxist classes. After studying the Bible with St. for a few hours the other day, he had to return to his university to attend his required Marxism course, of which atheism is a fundamental tenet.

And sometimes these ideas about the opinions of the average student appear to be true. D. is one of the girls who comes most faithfully to everything we do. When she first came to our Bible study, she was kind of argumentative and almost adamant about not believing in God or the Gospel. She’s a Christian now, reads her Bible regularly, and actively participates in our Bible study as a leader. Strangely enough, all those questions about biology, evolution, atheism, humanism, and Marxism never really surfaced. But D. is one of the most faithful, and her appetite for the Word of God is just incredible.

Surprisingly, the average student accepts quite readily that there is a God. They don’t find it impossible to believe that the Bible is His Word. In their correct opinion, creation isn’t too hard for an Almighty God. Them? Sinners? Of course. Why shouldn’t they believe those things? Their conscience, the creation, and now the church have told them.

That’s not to say that there aren’t questions. Because there sure are. But they’re just unexpected. They don’t get the Trinity. They don’t get the difference between religion and a relationship. They don’t get the Old Testament. And one of the biggest things they don’t get is the violence of God. If God kills someone, or God destroys a people, or if God sanctions a war, they just can’t wrap their minds around it.

So how do we answer this question? I’m serious, this really confuses them. I guess the American taste is a little different. We’re big fans of violence! Wars make sense to a lot of us. We pride ourselves on not backing down from fights. We watch fights and glory in the champions. We enjoy movies about war. Those elements are also in this culture, but toned way down. There’s not a fine line here between blood-lust and the glory of battle, as there often is in the States. It seems much more pronounced than that.

So when Americans read about God’s people in the Old Testament suiting up and hacking off some Amalekite limbs, we cheer like a bunch of goons. That’s not exactly the reaction they have here. One of the reasons I was so nervous about doing a series on the life of David is his proclivity to war-making behavior. But I was pleasantly surprised last week at their reception of David’s head-removing ministry. It seems when you zoom in and make the story personal, the violence makes more sense. When they hear the giant cursing God and threatening God’s people, the judgment makes more sense. This is why we don’t mind watching shows about war and fighting – the writers and directors make the story personal.

We also need to zoom out – and look at the big picture. The Old Testament is confusing to them because they can’t figure out what in the world God is thinking. What is His purpose? What is His plan? Why does it include killing a lot of “innocent” people? The answers to these questions lie in a proper view of the grand layout of the blueprint of God’s eternal purpose. I am preparing now for my first all-in-Mandarin series, which we’re going to call “The Big Picture.” We’re going to look from Creation to Revelation and study what God is doing. Hopefully, this kind of zooming-out will bring everything into better focus. Their lives, this present world, and the parts of the Bible that confuse them so much.

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One Comment on “Zoom In, Zoom Out”

  1. Scott October 31, 2007 at 9:03 am #

    Wow, it’s amazing how culture completely changes the way you view things. Just remember: if they see it differently than Americans, they must be wrong or hopped up on drugs. It’s the only reasonable explanation.

    Seriously, though, God bless you brother, you are doing an amazing job.

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