Sinners or Criminals

So one of the big issues in witnessing in China is supposed to be this problem with the word ‘sin.’ It’s definitely a problem, but I’m not sure it’s for the reason that is normally presented. The reason usually given is a linguistic one (most attempts to explain people’s mentality by their language are pretty flawed): that because the word for ‘sin’ in Chinese is the same as the word ‘crime,’ people are hesitant to admit that they are ‘sinners,’ or ‘criminals.’

While that’s basically true, that hardly makes the situation a problem. In fact, it probably sets Chinese-speakers up to better understand what sin really is. Whereas in English the word ‘sin’ may, in modern minds, provoke thoughts of religious head-shaking and divine disappointment in natural human naughtiness, the word really means ‘a transgression of divine law,’ or ‘crime.’ You may find some Americans shrugging and saying, ‘Sure, I’m a sinner. Nobody’s perfect, right?’ But for a Chinese person, admitting you’re a sinner probably does sound more severe.

Any real presentation of the Gospel has to paint both God and man in their true colors. I’m pretty sure there’s been times in America where, when preaching the Gospel, I have not depicted sin in its full blackness. (fortunately, some of the work is done for me here!) When sin is accurately explained, we’ll find people of any race or language hesitant to agree.

A quick word of thanksgiving: last night we had a fantastic service. There were a couple professions of faith. The Word seemed to take root in hearts last night, and that is just so exciting to be a part of! Just one of those nights you remember for a long time.

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2 Comments on “Sinners or Criminals”

  1. Cameron September 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    After the little bit I’ve read your site, it has been extremely helpful to me. I’m trying to understand the Chinese mentality more, especially as a Reformed Christian and one who wants to effectively share the gospel to them. I also am newly married to a Chinese woman. We will be visiting her parents soon and staying there for about 5 months. They aren’t believers yet know that I am. They work for the goverment and have told my wife to gag me (in a loving way) from preaching the gospel while I’m there in China. My feeling is that it is just another form of saving face to them.

    This has got me thinking (while I’m still very premature on my assumptions about the Chinese), that one of the MAJOR sins of the Chinese mentality is ‘saving face’. It’s an idol. It’s breaking the second commandment. It’s making a god out of self image, and the desire to want to control how everyone else views you – while they’ll find some reason to not like you anyways, even if you appear to be immaculate!

    I’ve taught my wife how to effectively share the gospel, starting with our sin and the purity of God so that sinners realize they need the sinner’s Savior. She told one of her Chinese co-workers that she and everyone is sinful. Her co-worker freaked out. I’m starting to think that it’d be good to point out to Chinese that ‘saving face’ is sinful too and serious enough to seperate us from God for all eternity – like any sin. We spend so much time and energy trying to control how others view us, but God sees our every thought, motive, and hidden action perfectly and all, whether a Chinese governement official or a beggar, must give an account to Jesus Christ.

    What are your thougts? I’d love to talk with you about this an many other things about the Chinese culture and your ministry! I’ll be praying for your ministry every day!


  1. Evangelism: How Long Does It Take? (Part 2) | The Gospel in China - April 6, 2013

    […] it contains at least three categories that Chinese people do not readily grasp: God, holiness, and sin. A Western child that grows up with Sunday school lessons, sermons, memory verses, and a generally […]

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