In February, everyone is looking forward to the family reunion on Chinese New Year. In the past, I have not really appreciated the expectancy and excitement of the coming new year celebrations, until my elder daughter became a missionary.
For the last 2 years, she only came home twice, staying about 20 days. Once it was during the Chinese New Year. Another time, it was the August National Day holidays. This year, my elder daughter will be back on Chinese New Year’s eve – I can hardly wait for that reunion dinner! The Chinese New Year beckons us to put down our busy frame of mind, the unfinished work in our hands and go to the people and things that mean the most to us – enjoying a meal together with the whole family, and basking in the warmth and love of the family members, who have gathered for the reunion.
Work, career, schooling, special interests, dreams – these all have their value; but they are not the most important things in our life, or are they? “Buy a box and return the pearl inside”. This saying came from Han Feizi’s writings. The story goes that there was a jeweller of the Chu Kingdom who put up his jewellery for sale in Zheng. He had a rare and exquisite pearl for which he set a high price. He placed the pearl in a special custom-made beautiful little box. That little box must have been so beautiful and attractive that it caught the attention of a customer. The customer paid the price asked for and bought it immediately. However the customer took out the precious pearl and returned it to the jeweller and only took the empty box away. This illustrates the frivolity of man’s ways in chasing superficiality instead of substance and the inappropriate choices we make.
We often make the same mistake: forgetting the original purpose or intent, putting the less important above the more important, thus resulting in wrong choices and poor judgement. Could the church be trapped in a similar situation? We are busy with church re-building, administration, ministry structures … Focusing on these is unavoidable, but if we lose the Matthew 28:18-20 commandment from Jesus to spread the gospel and its zeal, then we have indeed fallen into this “buy the box and return the pearl” mentality- seeking the second best instead of the excellent way.
Our founder John Wesley, had foreseen that this situation might arise. In his 1786 tract entitled “Thoughts upon Methodism”, he wrote, I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”
I believe that the power that John Wesley referred to is the fire from witnessing for Christ when preaching the gospel. He wrote in his diary, “It is no marvel that the devil does not love field preaching! Neither do I; I love a commodious room, a soft cushion, a handsome pulpit. But where is my zeal if I do not trample all these underfoot in order to save one more soul?”
A new year, a new beginning, with the coming of spring, everything is fresh again; in the new year, what will Jesus expect of us? I think Jesus expects us to be a evangelism- focused church – return to the Lord’s heart and desire, be a witness for the Lord in this generation, that all nations may be His disciples!
As 2018, the year of the earth dog, is approaching, I wish to bless everyone with these words:
Concentrate on waiting for the Lord, keep close to God’s Word;
Be strong and courageous, loyal in service, a good servant to the Master.