“Aside from a truly biblical Chinese theology, the greatest need in Chinese churches today is for healthy marriages among the leaders.”
These words from someone who has traveled the length and breadth of China and has spoken with probably hundreds of pastors resonate with all that I have seen, heard, and read.
Truly, Chinese pastors face immense challenges from several directions, including church members who expect them to be “on call” 24/7 and to sacrifice themselves for others. Many of these pastors are bi-vocational, so they have to balance what are in effect two full-time jobs. Even for those whose churches can afford to pay a full salary, however, the Confucian model of leadership demands an unlimited commitment to a never-ending task.
Though under less pressure from the church, “ordinary” Christian couples struggle to build and maintain a loving relationship in the face of powerful onslaughts from the outside.
Ancient Chinese tradition commends the legendary hero Yu the Great, who for thirteen years worked assiduously to tame the raging rivers that caused devastating flooding. During that time, he passed by his house three times but refused to go in even for a moment, turning a deaf ear to urgent calls from his family, lest he take time from his mission to the people.
Confucius, the revered sage of China, did not seem to have a happy married life, and his teachings contain almost nothing on the subject of marriage. One of his few comments criticizes the husband who loves his wife too much. Later Confucian ethical teaching did call for the husband to be kind and the wife obedient, but husbands still acquired as many concubines as they could afford and put official business before their relationship with their wife.
Today, with society unraveling at a dizzying rate, marriages reflect the corrosive effects of oppressive work demands, rampant sexual immorality, pervasive consumerism, and Western-style individualistic hedonism. Christians are not immune to these forces.
Until very recently, Chinese Christians had few resources to help them nurture a biblical marriage. Most Christians in mainland China are young, so they have few older couples to whom they can look as examples or mentors. The wealth of books, videos, conferences, and marriage counselors that we possess in the West simply does not exist for them. No wonder more and more Christian marriages are ending in divorce.
Even those who remain faithful to their wedding vows often do not know how to communicate healthily, to resolve conflict, or to order their family according to biblical principles.
In response to the need for biblical teaching on marriage, I wrote The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: A Handbook to Marriage, which you can purchase from Amazon.com. I am hoping to publish a Chinese edition both in Taiwan and mainland China.
My colleague, Dr. Carol Lee Hamrin, has authored a series of short articles called The Gift of Family. These have been translated into Chinese and posted on a popular blog site. You may read a review at Reaching Chinese Worldwide.
Dori and I served as advisers to the Chinese Christian Fellowship at the University of Virginia for more than twenty years. One of our greatest joys has been to attend, and sometimes participate in, their weddings. On August 1st, I conducted the ceremony at a “destination wedding” in Vallery, France.
Dori plans to go to California for another CCF wedding in early September. These occasions allow us not only to re-connect with people whom we shepherded during their college years but also to affirm the importance of Christian marriage for the kingdom of God.
Please pray that God would use our publications and presence at weddings to encourage Christians to glorify himself through their marriages.
Yours in the love of our heavenly Bridegroom,
P.S. A number of people have asked how to contribute to our ministry. You may find out by going to www.reachingchineseworldwide.org and clicking on “Give.”