23 October 2015
Would Jesus have dinner with the Chinese PM?
Ever felt obliged to invite guests over for dinner knowing full well that they were not welcome by other members of your household?
You know, like Christmas Day and the annoying aunt or uncle that we all have is invited over. Well - it’s felt like Christmas all this week with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in the UK on a state visit meeting the Queen and David Cameron. People of all faiths and none have expressed concerns about this visit. Did he really have to be at the dinner – sorry, banqueting table?
A world away from the customary foibles that an irritating relative may have: the issues with President Xi are grave.
Human rights groups have highlighted the extensive human rights abuses under his leadership and have condemned the lavish welcome he has received. The government wants to trade with China and secure a slew of business investments. The question being asked is: what price do our PM and chancellor want to pay for strengthening economic and diplomatic ties?
In an open letter NGOs and campaigners called on the prime minister to address “grave concerns” over the detention of human rights lawyers, repression of ethnic minorities and a crackdown of freedom of worship. Of course, we are appalled by the persecution of Christians and other faiths in China. In the eastern province of Zhejiang, more than 400 churches have been demolished in the past 18 months. This is sickening - but what would Jesus do? Would he slam the door on diplomacy?
Helpful guidance can be found in Matthew 9:10-13: "While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples: 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' On hearing this, Jesus said: 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"
Jesus would have had dinner with the Chinese prime minister. He would have shaken his hand and engaged with him.
The Bible tells us to pray for kings and all those in authority so we can lead a peaceable life - but, we must not be misguided by our biblical submission to government. God never intended for Christians to blindly yield to government tyranny and blatant abuses of power. We pray and we take action. We lobby our government and insist they do not duck the difficult questions in their discussions so that injustice can be reversed. We are called to advocate on behalf of the oppressed just as much as we are called to pray.
The human rights abuses taking place in China are abhorrent. The attitude of Jesus does not let the government off the hook in terms of their responsibility to raise and address these grave issues, but Jesus’ blood still speaks. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s message of grace and power to transform hearts: just look at Paul’s conversion from murderer to one of the most influential figures in Christianity. Is the political situation in China too hard for God? I think not…
by Esther Kuku, media relations manager, Evangelical Alliance