Editor’s note: There is a Chinese proverb which says you cannot come to know another person without fighting with them; “out of blows, knowledge grows.” (In Chinese, this is “不打不相识,” or “Bu da, bu xiang shi.”) Tan Jian is a Chinese preacher who is well-accustomed to “blows” for the sake of Christ. In this short meditation, he writes about how his persecutions have allowed him to get to know the people who beat him. It has also given his persecutors an opportunity to get to know him, and to know the God of grace he worships. To Tan Jian, persecution is an opportunity to share his true self with a group of people who might not otherwise encounter God.
Knowing and Being Known By Our Persecutors
“To know” is a fascinating word – especially in the Bible. One of the most famous verses in Scripture says, “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
If we were able to have a healthier and more positive attitude in the face of our current persecution, I think it would actually allow us to see persecution as a process of getting to know one another. In the midst of persecution, we are able to get to know both God and ourselves more deeply. We also come to know and be known by the people who persecute us.
We can group knowledge into three categories: knowledge of God, knowledge of people, and knowledge of things. We are most familiar with the knowledge of things. We humans are used to acting as the subject of the sentence: “I know something.” We ourselves are the subject; the thing we know is the object. As the subject, the person who acts, we can dominate the object we are trying to know. If a thing does not allow us to know them, we can break it apart, dissect it, and even crush it to force it to reveal its true colors.
But when it comes to knowledge of people, we need to let go of this attitude. Humans are equal; in a relationship, both people have the role of subject. Sometimes I am the subject, the one who knocks on the door, and the other person opens it. But it is so much better when the other person also takes action and acts as the subject. It is so good when the other person opens their home, welcomes me in, opens up and shares the testimony of their life so we can really get to know one another.
With knowledge of God, we need to be even more careful about our language. The structure of a sentence might make it seem that I am the subject, the one who does; for instance, “I want to know God.” But the truth and reality is that we as humans can never know God — unless he takes the initiative to reveal himself to us. Furthermore, the Bible says “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
An Exchange of Blows May Lead to Friendship
Persecution occurs when a person tries to know another human being the same way they know things. One human assumes they are the subject, while the other person is just something to be acted upon and figured out. It is even worse when a human tries to know God in the same way, like the Lord is an object to be understood.
After beginning like this, a person might realize this attitude is irreverent. So, they take a step forward and move to a higher level. They attempt to know God and God’s people in the same way one human knows another. Yet in the end, this too falls short. Humans lack the ability to know or figure out God. Alone, they cannot understand the meaning of this Scripture truth: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Because they cannot know God or God’s people, officers arrested me and forced me to reveal my true self. They did this in the same way they might try to know a thing; they broke me apart and physically punished me. Yet I am really nothing more than a Christian, a sinner saved by grace. When they broke me open, they found my true self was different from what they had expected. Only then did they start to know something about me.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
At this point, they had to rethink who they were and how they were behaving. They reacted exactly the way I predicted. Through their blows, the persecutors and the persecuted came to know one another. This is an important gain for both of us, as we continue to walk through persecution. This is what it means when we Chinese say: “Out of blows, knowledge grows!”
Tan Jian is a pseudonym for a house church pastor in northern China.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray that the process of persecution will allow many Chinese persecutors the chance to know Christians and, most importantly, to know God.