As the past week’s fiasco of CHC, Pastor Kong Hee & friends threatens to explode into a religious-financial scandal of epic proportions — or perhaps already has — we are met with a surprising myriad of responses from Christians and non-Christians alike. From sympathy to sarcasm, condescension to confrontation, disapproval to disbelief.
The path to a “right” response is a tricky one if you, like me, are a Christian who has never quite agreed with or subscribed to the teachings of mega-churches like City Harvest.
It’s almost too easy to jump on the bandwagon of “I-told-you-so”, only to realise its not so much a bandwagon as a truckload, and that most of the people on-board don’t even share your faith. I’ve been sniggering at ‘China Wine’ ever since it made its scantily-clad, musically-suspect appearance a few years back — never quite understanding how that could be remotely defined as Christian outreach. Now as I think about it however, the quotas for sarcasm and condemnation are more than full. I need a better, biblical response.
Humility. Yes, they (allegedly, I should add) were dishonest with money. Yes, it was a lot of money. But when it comes down to it, sin is sin. I’m as sinful as any of them, and I need God’s forgiveness as much.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst.” — 1 Tim 1:15
Paul the apostle reminds us that Christianity is not about holy, good people, its about sinful, helpless people that need a Saviour. As much as this whole incident seems to “disgrace” the name of Christianity, it actually just further highlights that all men, no matter how seemingly godly in manner, all need Christ’s forgiveness at the end of the day. The fact is, Christ died for their sins. Yes, even these ones.
Courage. As people dance around the hyper-sensitive issue of religion on Facebook — some more ready to offend than others — how do I continue to profess what I believe in, even as Christianity is torn to shreds by scathing criticisms, sartorial humour and a disbelieving public?
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” — 1 Peter 2:12
Just like how books are inevitably judged by their covers, Christianity is similarly judged by its Christians. We are probably the worst representatives you could find, because of that tiny problem of sin. But still, we are asked to try, and that means we don’t stop even if others (and even ourselves) fail. Will you look at me and see an inkling of God’s love? Will you recognise sinful people trying and often failing to be more like their perfect king?
And finally, Prayer. As the Singaporean Twittersphere is awash with #prayforchc #prayforkonghee by presumably devout church members, the question is really what exactly do I pray for? I’ve thought this through and here are some of them.
1. I can pray for a heart of humility for myself and fellow Christians. May we see them first and foremost as brothers and sisters in Christ, equally sinful and equally forgiven by God.
2. I can pray for unity in the body of Christ, among Christians, that the devil may not be able to use this incident to tear apart the family of Christ. As Paul says in Ephesians 4, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit,… one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…”.
3. I can pray that the truth of the gospel will even more evident in the light of false ones that have surfaced. That the message of Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings will be stronger than any one man, one church or wealth and riches.
4. I can pray for those accused and their families, that in this time of difficulty, that they will find comfort and strength in God, and come to a truer and deeper knowledge of God through his Word.