Inward as China used to be, outward as it is & upward for what it will be!
(By Paul Chong)
New Pudong Skyline
Of the nations in the world today, China stands out progressively tall and strong. It is as though a sleeping dragon is finally awakened. This appears to be the fear of the West. Though an economically strong China is good commercially for all the trading nations in the West, politically China poses a great threat. It is feared that “once China stands up, it won’t topple or be toppled.” That was why precisely Napoleon in his wisdom and conquering days decided to let China sleep and not to rouse her.
In retrospect, China is undoubtedly the world’s greatest civilised nation over a continuous period of thousands of years – a civilisation undiminished and unbroken, unlike past civilisations like Egypt, Greece, or the Romans. By any reckoning, China should have by now be far more superior than the rest of the world. Why not?
Of the many reasons why China did not progress beyond its initial lead in technology and discovery, the main cause of which can largely be attributed to its inward looking policy. . . viewing all territories outside the Great Wall of China and its boundaries as barbaric in nature. This nationalistic pride and closed door policy led to its seclusion, totally depriving itself from the inter-change of ideas and exposure to new scientific developments and industrial growth. While China lavished in its culture, philosophy and essentially non-materialistic form of development, it began to lag behind the West in terms of economic industrial growth. In preserving its civilisation from being tainted by corruption, disruption and deterioration, it never knew new growth, development and discoveries elsewhere in the whole wide world. The “Middle Kingdom” realised too late the encroachment of other nations upon its shores and territories. Countries like Britain, Portugal, Japan were making inroads into China through modern superior arms of war instead of its age-old “kung-fu”.
To grow, to progress is to change. Sentiment must give way to progress. There is no room for inhibition to changes. Change needs to take place before growth and progress can be attained. Its attitude more than aptitude that scales the altitude. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the great former prime minister of Singapore, is credited for the great strides achieved by the City State. His visionary ideas have no room for inhibition to change or any hindrance.
Now, what a change has come about as a result of Deng Xiao Ping’s visionary concept of “Xiang Qian Zou”. In Mandarin, it means “Forward Move”, but by replacing the middle word with the similar pronunciation, it becomes “Moving Forward With Money”. This started a great frenzy for the Chinese striving for monetary progress in all spheres of work and life. China has made a quantum leap – virtually a country with no phone to the modern technology of mobile phones! But capitalistic way of life does have its price.
Greed always breed a profound loss of goodness in mankind. Simple honesty, truth, kindness and compassion are lost in the process. The dollar sign is etched prominently on the foreheads of goal-getters. It is evident to an outside observer that the whole civilisation is transformed overnight. China, in its forward economic stride, has done away with its traditional large families, and its door is wide open to the corrupt western way of life. There is a price to be paid, for consequential results cannot be avoided.
We are not here this morning to discuss the forward march of China and the loss of a whole generation of tradition, custom, simple curtesy and good manners, which comes about as a result of its Cultural Revolution.
We want, however, to draw a comparative study between China and the United States of America, which has only a history of some 200 odd years, and yet progressively more advanced. Why is this so? The irony of this is even more profound when we compare US with Great Britain – the tag of British “greatness” pales in significance. And to think that America started as a colony of Britain! What then is the significant attributable factor?
This factor is spelt out very clearly when we look at the green bag note. It says very clearly: “In God We Trust”. It is this upward and outward attitudinal outlook that make all the difference between Britain and US, and China and US. The Americans look upward to God for all its needs and provisions since the first Pilgrim Fathers stepped on the shore of the new continent. Because of its explicit trust in the Lord, America has been greatly blessed and it prospered beyond the realms of other nations with similar history or longer history.
Apart from this upward attitudinal outlook, it practises an outward outlook beyond its shore and adopt an open door policy in the many aspects of its economy. In so doing, it was able to absorb and gain both from within and without the world the wealth of knowledge towards its rapid advancement.
On the personal front, the individual must avoid being inward looking. The classic example is drawn from the Pharisees, the elite Jewish ruling council, high-browed, stiff-necked and self-centred in character. They rejected Jesus as the Messiah (the Jews’ promised deliverer) and till today they are still awaiting His coming. Ever wonder re the plight of the “wandering Jews”? Being persecuted and hated wherever they are? It is without doubt God’s punishment of the Jews for crucifying Christ on the cross! Not until the Jews find their roots in the Messiah Jesus, will their wandering stop!!
In Matthew 23:13, it reads: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” It is interesting to note that Israel, the chosen one, was largely ethnocentric, much against God’s ecclesiocentric view of encompassing also the Gentiles in His overall plan and purpose. God chose Israel in preparation for the complete unwrapping and disclosure of His universal intentions. In de Groot’s words, “Israel is the opening word in God’s proclaiming salvation, not the Amen.” Like Jonah Israel turned away from the Gentiles in introverted pride. Jonah wanted a God cut according to his own pattern, cold and hard with an unbending will set against the heathen. He could not stand to think of the gentiles as part of God’s salvation scheme.
Verse 27: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Verse 39 concludes with this: “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ’Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
How prophetically true what Jesus said! Until and unless the Jews find repose in Jesus, their perils will not be over!!
In John 14:6, the terminology is always on the personal basis: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus has given us the road map guiding us upwards to heaven, and to stay in the centre of God’s will. You need not worry about tomorrow and trust Jesus to guide you one day at a time, and to follow Him even though you don’t know the way. No other road map is required.
Abram followed one day at a time. He walked by faith and not by sight. As in Genesis 12:1-5, we read:
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people & your father’s household & go to the land I will show you.”
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless
you; I will make your name great, and you will be
a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever
curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be
blessed through you.”
So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went
With him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he
set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew
Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the
people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for
the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Abram (whose name was changed by God to Abraham) is the classic example of the principle of “walking by faith, rather than by sight . . . one day at a time”. In walking with the LORD, ourselves must be erased, the LORD must be raised. There is a definite attitudinal shift from self-centredness to God-centredness.
In John 15:5 it says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Thus the way to be is: inwardness to upwardness. Amen.