Dear Praying Friends:
Chinese marriages are in trouble. When I asked a Chinese pastor how the couples in his church were doing, he replied, “Worse even than American Christian marriages.” He went on: “They are all too busy. Communication is lousy; they hardly ever really talk to each other. Conflict is dealt with by either ‘cold war’ (silence) or ‘hot war’ (screaming). It’s a mess.”
A Burdened Past
For millennia, Chinese women were mistreated by their men. From the binding of little girls’ feet to the taking of concubines by their husbands, women faced daily denigration, drudgery, and disease. Death from preventable diseases was commonplace. At the same time, Chinese men were considered among the most hen-pecked in the world. Though husbands and wives were expected to treat each other courteously, and many did, the biblical standard of marital intimacy did not generally inform their view of marriage. In the 20th century, conditions improved for women.. The missionaries had initiated and supported campaigns for the end of foot-binding, education for girls, and equal regard for both sexes. In the 1920s, this attitude then merged into another: The idea that a woman’s worth depended entirely upon her contribution to society. Rejecting the traditional high regard for the roles of wife and mother (which had often been an excuse for subjugation), the “new woman” embraced an ideal of the equality of the sexes that amounted to identity in all respects except anatomy. The Communists enshrined this model of “liberation” for all women by requiring that they work outside the home, regardless of whether they wanted to. Meanwhile, their husbands, like men the world over, still expected their wives to do most of the housework and childrearing.
Marriage Under Attack
Since the market reforms beginning in 1978 – and long before that outside the Mainland – Chinese marriages have been buffeted by the gales of Western narcissism. The self rules. Today, pre-marital sex is rampant; extra-marital affairs are commonplace; domestic bickering and even violence are endemic, divorce rates soar annually. With both husband and wife pursuing success in their careers, there is no time to spend on nurturing their relationship. Rural couples find themselves separated by the need to find a job in the city, where temptations abound. Cheated wives back in the village commit suicide in droves. Like the rest of us, however, the Chinese have also embraced the romantic ideal, so they enter wedlock with high expectations for a fulfilling union. When the honeymoon ends, there are few communication skills to deal with conflict; hardly any good models to imitate; a lack of commitment to a lifelong bond; and the belief that you can change a mate as you do a suit of clothing.
Christ Brings Hope
The Gospel speaks to this deplorable situation. Christ brings pardon of sins, and the power to forgive others. Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice rebukes our selfishness and impels us to imitate Him. Christian couples can pray with each other for their marriage, try to follow biblical teachings about relationships in general and marriage in particular, and rely on the Holy Spirit to change things. In the church, there are friends who can stand with us when we encounter the inevitable difficulties of living with a fellow sinner. Their friendship, example, and prayer can carry us through tough times.
We take this marriage crisis very seriously, and seek in a variety of ways to help our Chinese friends overcome the many obstacles to a stable and loving relationship. Out teaching almost always includes instruction about how men and women should relate to each other, before and after the wedding. In my monthly sermons on Ephesians at a local Chinese church, I always apply general principles to this vital area of life, as I do also when I speak elsewhere. Randall Chan does the same in England. Dori and Connie also have opportunities to guide Chinese women and young people as they search for a better way. My writing touches frequently on this theme. Jesus: The Complete Man has a chapter on our Lord’s example for husbands (go to AuthorHouse.com). Our website contains a number of articles about relationships, including “Love and Other Dangerous Addictions” (www.chinainst.org) and a digest of the book His Needs, Her Needs. The devotional meditations aim to nurture each person’s relationship with God. Several of my books published in Chinese speak to this subject as well.
Please pray for us as we seek to prepare people for marriage or help couples love each other better, and as we try to set a good example. Visit our website often and tell others about its resources.
Yours in His love,