When Jesus told his disciples that they were the salt and light of the world, he commanded them to let their light shine in such a way that “men will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15). His disciple, Peter, who heard these instructions, repeated them later in his First Epistle, in which he exhorted his readers to do good works that would testify to God’s goodness and greatness (1Peter 2:15; 3:6, 13, 17; 4:19). Paul gave the same teaching (Galatians 6:110; Titus 3:1, 8).
The Lord and his apostles made it clear that we must first meet the needs of fellow believers, such as widows and orphans in the family and in our congregations (1 Timothy 5:3–8, 16). Jesus set the example by feeding not everyone, but those who had followed him into the wilderness to hear his teaching (Matthew 14:13–21; 15:32–38). In the famous passage about helping others as a way of ministering to him, he distinctly said that we must do good to “these My brothers”—meaning those who belong to the family of faith. We are not to feel burdened to minister to the wants of everyone indiscriminately.
On the other hand, Jesus healed all who came or were brought to him, as did Peter and Paul. Furthermore, the parable of the Good Samaritan implies that my “neighbor” is anyone in my presence with a desperate need.
China’s millions include multitudes who are sick and without medical care; there are also uncounted millions without proper education. Christians within China are mobilizing to step into these gaps with the tangible love of God, in the name of Christ. Although increasingly restricted by the government, they still shine like lights in a dark world.
Likewise, followers of Christ based outside of China have been working for decades to alleviate some of the suffering masses in China, and to equip through education those who are hungry for more learning and skills. I shall mention only a few, as representative of many more.
A number of Christian organizations based in Hong Kong provide both medical help and further training for Chinese medical personnel, especially in less developed areas. For example:
Since 1994, MSI Professional Services (www.msips.org) has dispatched teams of physicians and other medical personnel to Yunnan and Chongqing Municipality for short-term education and treatment, as well as placing permanent workers in communities. They have offered education and treatment in a variety of specialties, including dental, eye, and emergency medicine.
For more than twenty years, Jian Hua Foundation (http://www.jhf-china.org) has sent teams of medical people on short-term missions to provide care and training in China’s less-developed areas. More recently, they have found opportunities for long-term workers in medical care, orphan care, and community development.
Christians are not the only ones with a heart to serve the poor, uneducated, and sick people in China. Several Buddhist, or Buddhist-led foundations, have been active also.
One of these is the Li Ka Shing Foundation (https://www.lksf.org/eng), also based in Hong Kong. The founder, Mr. Li, has donated several billion dollars to selected causes in China, where he was born, as well as overseas. Shantou University now boasts a world-class library and a growing reputation as a leader in education reform because of Mr. Li’s largess, but it is only one of almost two dozen institutions in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore that have received major financial support.
Partly because of Mr. Li’s own experience, as well as his commitment to help those who are weak and marginalized, the Foundation has established rural health clinics; treatment centers for the poor; cleft-palate treatment programs; hospice care centers; and facilities to care for the mentally retarded. The Shantou University medical school participates in a number of these, and has instituted innovative training methods as well. Other similar institutions in Asia, North America, and Europe, have been able to launch new initiatives with the Foundation’s support.
Though the Li Ka Shing Foundation may be the largest of its kind, it is not the only one. Imagine what dedicated Christians working in such a charitable organization could do. Not only could they demonstrate the love of Christ in the manner in which select projects and administer funds, but they might even be able to have an influence upon policy in a gentle way.
Meeting physical needs has always been part of God’s strategy for demonstrating his goodness and greatness among the Chinese. Many early missionaries, like Peter Parker and Hudson Taylor, were physicians. Missionaries, including Taylor and his wife, and also Timothy Richard, sacrificed a great deal to alleviate the horrible suffering inflicted by the great famine of 1876–1877. The examples are too numerous to record, and they remain powerful reminders today of the multiple ways in which Christians can serve as salt and light in society, to the glory of God the Father.