Christian Education: Jesus and Chinese Culture


Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part interview series in which we spoke with a Chinese educator involved in establishing a Christian school outside of China. (Part one can be found here.) This educator believes there is a lot of common grace in Chinese culture, but that Jesus is the solution to problems great Chinese educators like Confucius were unable to resolve. He hopes to teach children to appreciate and see the common grace in their culture, and to see how Jesus is the true version of Chinese cultural values such as piety.


Common Grace in Chinese Culture

China Partnership: I have heard you share some of your ideas with Chinese parents. You didn’t use these exact words, but essentially you were talking about “Christian education with Chinese characteristics.” Can you explain a bit more about what that looks like?

I remember specifically that you gave an example of couplets that you put above the door at holidays.[1] The couplet said something like, “Filial piety without love is not filial piety; love is found in Jesus.” I thought that example was very moving. Can you explain more about this sort of Chinese Christian education?
Joshua: We believe God has given common grace to the Chinese culture. In fact, Chinese culture is very similar to Jewish culture. Although the Chinese did not have a personal God like the Jewish people, the Chinese did fear Heaven. In Chinese culture, the concept of God was more of an impersonal “Old Father Heaven.” Their god was not personal, but they had a deep reverence toward heaven.

The biggest thing China lacks now is the grace of Jesus Christ. They need Jesus’s grace because people take hold of some elements of traditional Chinese culture – for example, the desire to pursue beauty and goodness – but they only follow after a shadow.

The other thing is, Chinese culture values the family and honors the elderly. Chinese people have a lot of respect for the elderly, and a great respect for authority. They are happy to show honor and respect. There has been a lot of common grace in Chinese culture.

The biggest thing China lacks now is the grace of Jesus Christ. Chinese need Jesus’s grace because people take hold of some elements of traditional culture – for example, the desire to pursue beauty and goodness – but they only follow after a shadow. They can’t obtain the real thing. They cannot find what they are looking for.

One of the examples I talked about was the idea of showing respect and honor to parents. This is called filial piety. For Confucius, this was one of the problems he could not solve. Even though you want to show filial piety toward your parents, your face is hard.[2] Although Confucius knew he could not solve this problem, it can be solved in Jesus Christ.

True Love through Jesus

Because we are in Christ, we realize there is no true love in our hearts. True love is revealed to us through Jesus. The book of Romans says: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus can solve the problem Confucius could not. In Christ, we can humbly honor and love others. In doing so, we ourselves have peace, and then we ourselves are blessed.

Only in Jesus can we understand God’s true love: love comes from God, and God is love. Jesus can solve the problem Confucius could not. In Christ, we can humbly honor and love others. In doing so, we ourselves have peace, and then we ourselves are blessed. Because the source of love is God, when we love others, we ourselves are loved!

Through these examples, we help the students to find a connection between Jesus and Chinese culture. Then, they can renew the culture through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that way, Chinese culture can have a real connection with the personal, triune God, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A Biblical Perspective on Culture

CP: What sorts of responses do you use from students and families when they really see that their cultural background and faith can work together? You have both Christians and non-Christians in your school – how do these different groups respond?


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Joshua: Actually, the high school is mainly made up of Chinese students. This part of teaching is included in the high school Chinese language curriculum, under Chinese classical literature. Right now, the high school is almost exclusively made of Chinese students, with only a very small number of international students. Because of this, they can learn about both the Bible and Chinese classical culture.

We help the students to find a connection between Jesus and Chinese culture. Then, they can renew the culture through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chinese students already understand traditional, classical Chinese culture, but they can learn to understand it from a biblical perspective. As our students go through this training, they will gain more confidence that they are truly Christians.

[1] In traditional Chinese society, many Chinese people decorate for the lunar new year by posting couplets above and to the sides of their door. These couplets often contain hopes for the coming year, and are highly symbolic and poetic.

[2] This section is a bit difficult to translate, but it seems Joshua is discussing the issue of children who desire to honor their parents with their actions, but who cannot bring their heart to be tender and merciful toward them.


Joshua Liu is a pseudonym for a Chinese Christian educator involved in teaching and training the next generation.

Pray for Chinese Christian students to understand how their native culture uniquely reflects God.

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Further Reading

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Nanjing: Loving People Through Prayer
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Nanjing: Love Under Pressure
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Why Should I Love My Enemies?: Give Up Revenge, Love Enemies
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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

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About Guangzhou

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About Kunming

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About Shenzhen

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About Chengdu

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About Beijing

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