I briefly introduced the blessing motif from Genesis to Revelation in the last article by painting an overarching picture that encourages Christians to extend God’s blessing courageously in facing the forthcoming socio-political new normal.
The prophet Daniel was a good example of God’s agent of blessing when facing drastic challenges. He was taken captive to Babylon with some other royal nobles to a Gentile land. In Daniel 1:2, the author called the land Shinar which connoted a place hostile to God.1 His religious freedom was restricted, and he was named after a pagan goddess.2 Daniel was to be trained to serve an unmerciful king, Nebuchadnezzar, who ruined his hometown. Emotionally, Daniel should have treated Nebuchadnezzar as an enemy. But Daniel and his friends were resolved to live on, to learn Babylonian culture well, and to get a placement in the court. In today’s language, God prepared them to become cross-cultural ministers in a restricted access nation.3
God blessed Daniel in his first exilic experience. Daniel was able to make friends with the officials in charge of their custody. They agreed on a test to see if Daniel and his companions would survive without taking the heathen meat and wine provided. Their faithfulness brought God’s blessing to their bodily health (Daniel 1:11-15). God further bestowed on them intellectual brilliance. Finally, they were chosen as leaders since Nebuchadnezzar found that their wisdom surpassed that of the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom (Daniel 1:19-20).
Then, God turned a crisis into an opportunity for Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar nonsensically gave a life-threatening order to the wise men who had to interpret his dream while he kept its content secret. At the critical moment, Daniel was able to reach an agreement with the officer and the king to buy time for finding a solution. After fervent prayer, during the night God revealed the mystery to him in a vision. Daniel was then able to bring the message to the king who eventually prostrated himself in admiration of Daniel’s wisdom revealed from his God. The king even promoted him to higher leadership position in the court (Daniel 2). On further development, Daniel gained more trust with the king and consequently the king turned to the true God. Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and proclaimed the goodness of God to all his people (Daniel 4:1-3, 36-37).
These events can be described in a blessing triangle as shown in my last article. God blessed Daniel who, as a faithful servant, became a channel of blessing to the Gentiles. When the nonbelievers accepted the blessing, they turned to God and glorified him.
The story of Daniel has great implications for us as we face our own upcoming social changes. An attitude of blessing and servanthood is a biblical and non-confrontational approach to testify to God’s love in a country unfriendly to Christianity, trusting that God continues to uphold us in his mission. This approach works especially well in the Chinese context as I have experienced in my ministry in China. In this post, I will share my understanding through the lens of Confucianism while leaving other perspectives for further discussion in future posts.
Confucianism Diffused in Public and Government
Confucianism can be regarded as a diffused religion in China. Its influence does not rely on the institutionalization of a formal religion. Rather its traditional values have been ingrained in families and schools where parents and teachers pass it on to form part of the social fabric.4 Confucianism was denounced during Mao’s presidency, but it survives till now. Xi Jinping has revived Confucianism to push forward the sinicization of Marxism in China and shape the image of a virtuous and benevolent government. Diplomatically, Confucius Institutes have been planted in national soils worldwide to demonstrate China’s soft power.5
In the light of Confucian cosmopolitanism, Hu Jintao put forward an initiative, “community of common destiny for mankind,” to promote global cooperation.6 Xi Jinping now continues to foster its realization.7 Within China, this global contributory view has been used to promote the government’s core socialist values expressed in the slogan, “Through making the Chinese dream come true, we bring blessing to all nations.”8 Strikingly, blessing all nations, a key theme in the Bible, can be a pursuit of common interest.
Blessing in the Eyes of Confucians and Christians
The Bible repeatedly described God’s bountiful benevolence to satisfy human needs in different life stages. The above experience of Daniel demonstrated that God holistically blessed his body, mind, spirit, relationships with his superiors, and his work. In parallel, in the sight of Confucians, a man should pursue all-rounded blessing. The Book of Documents, Shangshu, one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature with a collection of rhetorical prose serving as the foundation of Confucian philosophy, deliberated the full context of blessing, “The first is long life; the second is riches; the third is soundness of body and serenity of mind; the fourth is the love of virtue; the fifth is an end crowning the life.”9
The Bible spelled out clearly that our volitional choices of obedience or rebellion will result in blessing or cursing (Deuteronomy 28, 30). The Confucians advocated a similar principle. For example, the Discourses of Zhou, a collection of ancient rulers’ dialogues, recorded:
The Way of Heaven rewards uprightness and punishes immorality. Therefore, anyone in the court who takes part in governing the country is not allowed to violate the ordinance. Neither should he be indulged in indolence. Every member should assume his responsibility diligently so that we can receive the blessing from the heavens.10
This is just one illustration among many examples of ancient Chinese literature that guided a ruler’s integrity to invoke benedictions upon his countrymen.11
The new normal in Hong Kong will give rise to more and more tension due to the differences in ideology among communities. But on knowing that we share the same culture in pursuing blessing, there is ample room for Christians to act as peacemakers to bless the city, the nation, and the world. Let us learn from Daniel who lived in a culture, which contradicted his faith, ideology, and value. Yet he endeavored to serve the court well. He gained favor with the superiors he worked for while he upheld his faith firmly without compromise.
- Thomas L. Constable, “Notes on Daniel,” Dr. Constable’s Expository (Bible Study) Notes, 2020 edition, p. 23. Downloaded from website: https://planobiblechapel.org/constable-notes/.
- Ibid, p. 27.
- Sung Ik Kim, “Proclamation in Cross-Cultural Context: Missiological Context in the Book of Daniel,” Andrews University Digital Library of Dissertations and Theses, 77 pages, p. 8.
- Anna Sun, Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013), p. 123.
- Mugur Zlotea, “Weaving Confucianism into the Official Party Discourse: From Hu Jintao’s ‘Harmonious Society,’ to Xi Jinping’s ‘Communist Junzi’” in Contemporary East Asia and the Confucian Revival, edited by Jana Rosker, Natasa Visocnik, (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2015), pp.152-155, 157-158, 166.
- 滕文生, “人民要論：構建人類命運共同體是世界發展的歷史必然”, 人民日報, 人民網：http://theory.people.com.cn/BIG5/n1/2019/0111/c40531-30516083.html.
- Zhou Xin, “Xi’s Remarks on Building a Community with Shared Future for Mankind”, Xinhuanet, 2018-01-24. Downloaded from website: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-01/24/c_136920385.htm.
- Original slogan: “中華圓夢 萬民得福” has been used as a propaganda since 2014.
- Original verse：尚書：洪範11章：五福：一曰壽，二曰富，三曰康寧，四曰攸好德，五曰考終命。
- Original verse: 國語：周語中21章: 天道賞善而罰淫，故凡我造國，無從非彝，無即慆淫，各守爾典，以承天休。
- 鄭基良, “善惡報應論（三）”, 國立空中大學人民學報第18期，J.L.A. 1021-2116 (2009) 18 P.175-224.
Image credit: Hong Kong 16/17 by wwikgren via Flickr
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