Editor’s note: Alex McCoy joined St. Andrew’s Church in January 2010 as its Senior Minister. Originally from the U.S., he lived for a time in Jakarta, but has spent most of his life in Sydney. Alex is married to Megan and they have three boys.
Hong Kong has been through a tough year, probably its toughest in the last 75 years. Yet amidst the city’s current mood of gloom and uncertainty, there are opportunities to speak of the better hope we have in Christ.
The city’s recent struggles have been well documented, but require a brief recap. Large scale demonstrations in response to the proposed extradition law were followed by months of escalating protests, uncovering deep divisions within the city and diminished trust towards the government and police. As the tension abated, COVID-19 arrived. Like many places around the world, Hong Kong applied strong restrictions. Schools were suspended and group gatherings (including for churches) were prohibited for four months. Currently, Hong Kong is experiencing a third wave of infections with accompanying strict restrictions. A normally vibrant economy has been battered by the effects of protest, pandemic, and trade war.
More recently, tension has surrounded the introduction of the national security law by the Central Authorities. Whilst providing for national security is a legitimate concern, the imposition of the law without due process and consultation with the people of Hong Kong has caused apprehension and called into question the “one country two systems” framework of autonomy Hong Kong was promised under the Basic Law. Further questions exist over how the new law will be implemented.
In some respects, people are triaging their anxieties. Of more immediate concern is COVID-19. Can we stay safe? How long will the restrictions last? When will travel resume? How long will the economy suffer? The more distant but deeper anxiety is the future of the city. How much of the Basic Law will be eroded before it is due to expire? What freedoms will be taken away that were previously enjoyed? Increasingly, people have spoken about whether they will leave Hong Kong.
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These anxieties are manifest in different ways. The protests showed the incredible polarization in the city. There is a failure of discourse. Normally, tensions are eased when opposing parties take the time to listen to the other viewpoint. Empathy is encouraged when you can slow the pace, cool the rhetoric, and describe your opponent’s viewpoint in the best possible light. However, during the protests, this careful and measured discourse was in short supply. Worryingly, this polarization exists even amongst Christians. Some churches have taken official and active stances on either side of the political spectrum. Moreover, with the introduction of the National Security Law, people are afraid to discourse at all.
With these challenges and anxieties in Hong Kong come opportunities for the gospel, to tell the better story of our King.
One of the fascinating things I didn’t know about COVID-19 is that it has crown-like spikes on the surface of the cell (that’s why it’s a coronavirus). COVID wears a crown. It’s a wannabe king. It has the power to make people fear it, to have it rule over their lives. However, we Christians have a far greater King. The only true God, who reigns over all the earth. Over every country, every person, and every cell. We can take our worries and concerns about the future to our gracious Savior and King, who knows us intimately and provides for us perfectly.
As we share about Jesus, we seek to become a non-anxious presence. We have this calm engagement with the communities around us. We don’t get worried or outraged if we don’t win the political battles, because we know we’ve got a better kingdom to come. We don’t get upset if people misrepresent us or shout us down, because in Jesus, we have all the affirmation we need.
We also get intimately involved in the lives of people around us. COVID-19 forces social distancing and easily puts people in siege mentality, unwilling to connect or engage with those around them. We’ve used a saying in our church community: “Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection.” This is not simply through showing practical care and support to one another. It’s being intentional in sharing Christ to those whom God puts in our lives. We’ve been delighted at the response to our online services and the opportunities to reach people who otherwise don’t normally come to church. This has spilled over into online evangelistic courses.
“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lam. 3:22-26) During these times of trial and anxiety, we can give thanks that God is enough. His compassions never fail and he is always faithful. Pray that we would put our hope in God and wait for him.
Pray for Christians in Hong Kong to give expression to the unity that we have in Christ, to be active in listening, quick to extend grace and forgiveness, and joyful in fellowship. Pray that we would be a non-anxious presence, sharing the hope that we have in Christ, and that many people would turn to Jesus as Savior.
Pray for peace, stability, and justice in Hong Kong after the passing of the National Security Law. In this climate of uncertainty over the future, pray for clarity and fairness over the implementation of this law. Pray that people will not be given over to either despair or division but would work for the building of a safe and prosperous city, where the rights of all are respected. Pray that that people might seek shelter and comfort in the Lord God, who rules all and sees all.
Pray for the city amidst the recent escalation of COVID-19 infections and the return of increased in restrictions. Pray for recovery for the afflicted and for protection and safety for those caring for the sick. Pray that we would not be overly frustrated or exasperated by these circumstances; that we would persevere and be patient in these trials.
Pray for the material and financial provision of those who have been deeply affected by the slowdown in the economy due to the coronavirus. Pray especially for the poor, the homeless, and the marginalized, and those who care for them.
How does having faith in “a better kingdom to come” change the way we think about, pray for, and live within our current reality?