A Struggle to Believe
“I have been baffled by unconditional love.” This month, we ran an interview with a young Chinese woman who frankly admitted that, even though she has been a Christian for years, she still struggles to understand and believe that God loves her without condition.
At the same time as we published these forthright words, we are also praying for Chinese Christians to hold fast to love. Initially, when thinking of this topic, I envisioned strong and valiant believers who held fast to loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them. It’s true this is a biblical command. It’s also something I see Chinese Christians striving to do. (For instance, last week we ran this article about how house churches should respond to persecution. Laying out his goals for his church, a Chinese pastor said, “We need to communicate the power of [Christ’s] grace to those who persecute us.”)
But when I read Amy’s words, my heart breaks. It also relates. Like her, I am also “perplexed” by unconditional love. How does this work? Does God really love us, no matter what? Even when I fail, God loves me just the same? Even if I give way, God loves me? No matter what, God loves me? I can never fully love my enemies or my friends without first holding fast to God’s own perfect, complete, unconditional love for me.
The Father’s Perfect Love For Us
Amy also said, “I do believe in God in my heart, but there are parts of me that have yet to fully believe… Many people who have come to faith in Christ, including myself, still follow the ideas and practices of our parents, because we have been deeply impacted by them.”
As we prayed for Chinese to hold fast to love this June, I finished reading Red Memory, an incisive book of firsthand interviews with those who lived through and acted out the turmoil of that time. The book took a deep look at the scars of that decade on individual lives and society. As she spoke of her struggles, Amy herself specifically mentioned the scars the Cultural Revolution left on China’s soul.
Reflecting on Red Memory, I wonder if one relic of the Cultural Revolution is that it is particularly hard for Chinese families to believe in love that never fails? Those years starkly proved that life is conditional and can change at any moment; a God whose love never changes contradicts the experience of the period. It is a miracle that any of us are ever able to rest in God’s love for us. Against the background of generational societal trauma, the task is even more herculean.
In light of all this, I am praying Chinese believers will experience God’s love for them.
I am praying that, despite many messages that attempt to convince them their worth is in what they accomplish or in the honor they bring their family, they will hold fast to God’s perfect love for them. When they are shamed by dear ones who do not understand their faith: may they hold fast to Christ’s love. When they don’t live up to their own ideals: may they hold fast to the Father’s love. When they are rejected by society, when they struggle in their career, when they face financial troubles: may they hold fast to God’s all-encompassing love.
The practices of our parents shape and form us, but we have a perfect Father who has loved us completely. May that love be the defining force in the lives of Chinese believers. May they hold tight to him and rest in his perfect love for them – even when they fail.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray Chinese Christians will believe and rest in God’s unconditional love for them.