By: Dn Ng Zhiwen
Blessed Lunar New Year!
How will you be living it this year? 🙂
I can imagine the gleeful anticipation of ang pow enrichment and heaps of good food (not necessarily CNY goodies, just the particular ones you’ve always enjoyed eating); and the not so happy expectation of visiting people you don’t really know (and that sometimes includes relatives right?), the spring cleaning work and the mad rush to complete your homework just before school reopens.
Perhaps it would be a very different CNY for you. If you’re abroad, you might be contriving to get in touch with your family back home, and having your own creative version of a reunion dinner (e.g. ever heard of steamboat in a rice cooker pot?). CNY is also very much about family – and you might be thinking of and missing someone right now – I am thinking and praying over those of you who have lost a loved one recently.
I write specially to those of you who are anticipating a “usual” CNY.
More than any other time of the year, you’d be immersed into lots of traditional chinese culture – the colour Red, the calls for prosperity and fortune, the chinese characters and proverbs that are meant to spell good luck. These aspects are steeped in superstition and the cultural norm of seeking health and wealth (very common amongst Chinese).
There are also the aspects of family, and the values of filial piety and respect become very salient.
Now I want to challenge you in this – How would Christ change the way you view and live out CNY?
I do not want to get into a debate as to what parts of chinese culture should be rejected (e.g. paying respect to dead ancestors, and the preoccupation with chasing after prosperity), or accepted as being in accordance with scripture (health and family are important aren’t they?).
But I do want to emphasise one aspect that I believe can be redeemed in Christ, and is a real opportunity to serve and to minister.
As I’d mentioned earlier, this is a time for meeting relatives – some you know very well; others you barely know. And when you meet those you barely know, I am guessing that you’d be trying to conceal the fact that you barely know them, and have to try to be polite.
Can things be different?
Since CNY is all about family, and since we should earnestly desire for the salvation of our households (which, I believe covers extended families) – would you take this season to be a time for praying for your family members? Especially those who are not yet in Christ.
Then pray for opportunities to tell them about Christ.
Pray also for the ability to love them like Christ.
Even if it’s your “once-in-a-year cousin” – who knows how God can use you to reach out to him or her? If you’re indifferent and could not be bothered to talk to them, then obviously there will be no opportunity to do anything for the Lord. But if you see them as people just like you – lost without Christ – would that not at least get you on your knees praying for them?
Perhaps you could also offer them a simple thing – “How can I pray for you?”
Here’s my final point – The New Year is also a time for clearing debts. Actually, debts should preferably be cleared before the New Year comes, but this one is different – I mean the debt of love for your family members – your parents or your siblings. Are there any unresolved conflicts? Any lack of love? Any ongoing tension or cold war?
God’s word is really quite clear – that as much as depends on us, we should seek peace with all. Even more – we should also seek reconciliation, regardless whether or not we feel that we were the ones at fault or the ones faulted against. (see Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 18:15-16; Luke 17:3-4).
These things are real hard to do – not possible on our own strength! But you can pray for God to give you the strength to love (even as Jesus loves). Then consider what you can do to demonstrate that love during this CNY time (and beyond). It may be that there are issues that are beyond your control (it does take two hands to clap), but as much as depends on you – seek peace (Romans 12:18).
This Chinese New Year – may the Lord lead you as you find ways to redeem the time, and live for Christ.