How to Practice Passive and Active Love Toward Your Chinese and Asian American Neighbors

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Alexander Jun, PhD, is Professor of Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University and author of several books. His new book, White Evolution: The Constant Struggle for Racial Consciousness, will be available at the end of April. He is an elder at New Life Presbyterian Church of Orange County, and the former moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He is married and has three teenagers.


A message to non-Asian American Christians across the country: 

Please love our Asian American neighbors. This is clearly required of all of God’s children. 

He commands us to love. Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself” in Mark 12:31. Jesus also calls us to love our neighbors in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” in Matthew 22:36-39. This parable carries particular importance as it concerns those who are suffering. The mistake we often make is in thinking that our neighbors are those who look like, act like, and think like us. Non-Asian Americans often assume that overseas Chinese, or for that matter Chinese-Americans, other East Asian-Americans, or Pacific Islanders living in the United States rarely need to be cared for. Loving these neighbors in this time of hate-driven and fear-filled racism is now more critical today than ever. 

Many of our Asian American neighbors need our love and support. The FBI reported that hate crimes toward Asian Americans will increase during the COVID-19 crisis. Various experiences of verbal taunts and physical abuse have been documented and in at least one known incident, attempted capital murder. The Stop-AAPI-Hate website, a project of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council and Chinese for Affirmative Action, reported over 1000 incidents of hate crimes within three weeks of launching. Anti-Asian American racism is oftentimes conveyed in more subtle and nuanced ways through racialized microaggressions. Jokes about eating bats or references to this virus as “Kung Flu” reveal the ways humor can be used to express racist feelings.  


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What exactly does gospel neighboring look like for our Asian American neighbors, as well as for brothers and sisters in Christ, in these COVID-19 times? For some it might be in the form of a passive love. For others gospel neighboring will be more active. 

Passive Love

Love Your Neighbors By Praying

I suggest that we start with a passive love that prays for those who are suffering. Intercessory prayer is a powerful weapon against the enemy. We naturally continue to pray for those who are physically sick, who mourn the passing of loved ones, who have lost jobs, and who are health professionals. Please also intercede for those who are in fear of the virus of racism along with the virus of COVID-19. Pray for the victims of hatred that they would find solace in the presence of God and that they would not grow bitter and filled with hatred toward other ethnicities, but also that they would not be filled with self-hate or turn away from and blame God for being made the way they are. Pray that through this time they would be reminded that we were all created Imago Dei (in the image of God) and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Love Your Neighbor Through Self Reflection

Passively loving our Chinese and Asian American neighbors might mean that we first spend time in meditation, self-reflection, and introspection. Consider for example, why anti-Asian or xenophobic comments have not bothered us, and why we never considered this to be our problem. Why have we found statements like “the China Virus” unproblematic, or racist jokes like “Kung Flu” and other cruel comments either amusing, or harmless? The Lord commands, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). I believe that the application extends to turning deaf ears and blind eyes to unwholesome conversations.  

Active Love 

Support Local Asian American Business

Active love may take the form of financial support of local Asian American restaurants and other businesses effected by Anti-Asian American racism. Chinese and other Asian restaurants have suffered financial losses as a result of misguided Anti-Asian American Covid-19 fears. Ironically when Italy suffered from the virus, I heard of no reports of Italian restaurants being avoided in the US. Please consider supporting local businesses frequently, and let the owners know that you are in solidarity with them. 

See Something, Say Something

Oftentimes we convince ourselves that by saying nothing we are being neutral, when in reality silence only helps the perpetrator, and not the victim. Active gospel neighboring might also include courageously stepping in to intervene when racial bullying and violence occurs. 

We should talk very intentionally and specifically with our children, who see and hear everything and learn by what we do and don’t do. In our children’s ministries and youth groups, we need to teach our children how to love their friends by not speaking negatively about, joking about, or teasing their Chinese and Asian American classmates and peers online. We certainly need to teach them to speak up and report racism on social media.  Talk to them about what it means to be complicit in our silence whenever we allow racism to occur unchecked from others. As Brazilian educator Paolo Freire said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

Speak Up, Speak Out

If silence is no longer seen as neutrality then it is time to speak up and speak out against racism. Racism is a sin. God hates sin and his children should address it. Many of us who are pro-life ought to intuitively understand what it means to fight for the rights of others as we remember that life extends beyond the womb. Loving our neighbors will mean lovingly speaking up against “others” who continue to express racist comments toward your Asian American neighbors. 

It doesn’t matter if our best friends are Asian American or if we have been to Asia or are currently involved in ministry to China. None of these reasons absolve us from the responsibility of speaking up and addressing racism. And none of these reasons give us special excuses to make negative comments or jokes at the expense of others. 

Know That “Others” Are Right in Front of Us

Know that sometimes, oftentimes, the “others” might just be your own family, friends, congregation members, and church leaders. This will be the hardest challenge for many of us. We have heard the jokes and comments from family, friends, church members, and leaders our entire lives. We laughed with them, passed the jokes on ourselves, and it will feel impossible to start now without coming across as suddenly self-righteous. Assuming we passively loved by first engaging in self-reflection, the next step is simple. We must actively love those we’ve never loved by talking with those whom we have always loved.

It is time to be bold and honest. It is time to love our neighbors and be the salt and light of the world. 

Motivation Matters

I recently had the honor of co-authoring a statement against anti-Asian American racism along with several other Christian brothers and sisters. Within a week we saw nearly 10,000 others sign the statement in solidarity. It is encouraging to envision a world where God’s people are the first to respond to injustice. 

Friends, I do not want to leave us with a feeling of guilt. No, we believe that we are sinners already saved by grace, and the gospel drives us to care for and to love others as we have been cared for and loved by our Savior. Jesus is the one who was passing by, saw us dead on the side of the road, and had compassion for us. We ought to go and do likewise to others. 

God calls us to be the salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13). What would it mean for Christians to be salt and light as spiritual first responders to tragedies both physical and social? What kind of message and witness would that be to a watching world? 

May we continue to be people of Micah 6:8 – acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our Lord.

 


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More COVID-19 Resources

We’ve put together a special page devoted to ways we can learn from, love, and pray alongside our Chinese brothers and sisters during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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