The Lantern

Iron Sharpens Iron and Sparks Fly!

In his June 14 post entitled “The Chinese Church in Transition,” CHEN Jing observes:

One thing seems clear: any imported church models and church planting programs have to be thoroughly contextualized in Chinese society in order to have any chance in the future. The current struggle and reflection of the church in China could well lead to the rise of a genuinely Chinese ecclesiology.

As we survey the changing China ministry landscape, and all the struggles and obstacles it faces, “the Chinese church is still determined to be a part of the global mission movement.” Chen concludes by asking, “Could the church in China be a faithful minority living out it’s faith in Christ in a hostile world?” This is a question for the church in the west to answer as well. 

Recently a good friend invited me to read and discuss the book, Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference by John Inazu and Tim Keller who brought together a wide variety of contributors to address how Christians can interact with those around them in ways that show respect to those whose beliefs are radically different while remaining faithful to the gospel. From framing how to engage, ways of communicating, and embodying our engagement, this diverse group of writers addresses well not only how we can show respect for those with different beliefs, but also how to think about and interact in a very divisive culture. 

Interestingly, both my friend and I concluded there is much to be learned from the book about how we address divisions within the Christian community as well. Whether representing Jesus to unbelievers or as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to a ministry of reconciliation and peacemaking. In both cases this ministry is ongoing.

Trillia Newbell, in her chapter, “The Reconciler” says:

Reconciliation—true reconciliation—takes effort beyond saying sorry or even, “Can’t we all get along?” It takes dying to self, resisting apathy, evaluating where reparations might be made, and pursuing vulnerable relationships. Being a reconciler means extending grace and being open to others in ways that are often painful and costly. (p. 179)

Peacemaking is a vital part of our ministry of reconciliation. In his chapter, “The Peacemaker,” Claude Richard Alexander writes that:

. . . peacemaking (literally peace bringing) is countercultural [for every Christ follower]. In a world where competition rules, Jesus calls his followers to live cooperatively. Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 5:9 this way. “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight” (The Message). (p. 185)

The sheer number and array of “one another” commands in the New Testament (100 times in 94 verses), shows how many directions the ministry of reconciliation and peace bringing can take us. 

As my friend and I discussed this, we could not help but think of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” 

When iron sharpens iron sparks fly, because there will inevitably be moments and even seasons of tension, disagreement, and conflict in loving, tenacious friendships. But these sparks will be redemptively fueled by the Holy Spirit into powerful kingdom advance blazes if we stay with it and with each other.

This is vitally important now, as the church in China and the global church find their way on several mutual fronts and we are looking at wonderful opportunities to forge new relationships and partnerships, learning from, and encouraging one another along the way. Compelling stakes for sure! 

Kerry Schottelkorb

Ways to Pray

  • We thank God for the wonderful response to the recent lecture “Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom,” presented by Dr. Jesse Cicotti and co-sponsored by the US-China Catholic Association, China Academic Consortium, and ChinaSource. It is our joy and privilege to participate in this ongoing lecture series.
  • Pray for the ChinaSource board of directors and staff meetings taking place in Denver and virtually June 21–23, to be followed by staff meetings on June 24. Many decisions will be made related to our strategic planning process. Pray for a spirit of unity in Christ and that we will be led by the Holy Spirit throughout.
  • Pray that, by God’s grace, ChinaSource will continue to be a welcoming place for humble learning, respectful dialogue, warm introductions, collaboration, and partnering.
  • Pray that the Lord will continue to provide ChinaSource with opportunities for networking and establishing closer relationships with those in our community, while helping to connect others for service together. 

In Case You Missed It

A selection of recently published items:

Subscribe to receive new content by email.

ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

Written or edited by members of the ChinaSource staff.          View Full Bio

Are you enjoying a cup of good coffee or fragrant tea while reading the latest ChinaSource post? Consider donating the cost of that “cuppa” to support our content so we can continue to serve you with the latest on Christianity in China.