Chinese Schindler – Ho Feng Shan

Plaque at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in (from R to L) Hebrew, Simplified Chinese, and English

E’s sister introduced us to a TV drama series called “The Last Visa“, a Chinese-Czech production based on the true story of Chinese Consul General Ho Feng-Shan in Vienna during WWII.

Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and the Nazis began persecuting the Jews there. Many tried to escape, but cannot exit the country unless they have a visa issued by a foreign country. 32 countries including Canada met at the Evian Conference in France to discuss the plight of the Jews, but only the Dominican Republic offered to accept refugees.

Ho saw that this was not right and, acting against the orders of his superior (the Chinese ambassador to Berlin), started to issue visas to the Jews to go to Shanghai. At that time China itself was under attack and Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese, with a French Concession and International Settlement.

Visas were not needed to enter Shanghai then, but without a visa Jews cannot leave Austria. China’s Foreign Affairs Dept. wanted to maintain diplomatic relations with Germany, and along with the Nazis exerted tremendous pressure on Ho to cease and desist issuing visas. Ho refused on humanitarian grounds, and risking his life and career continued to issue several thousand visas to the Jews until he was ordered to return to China in 1940.

Each visa meant one life. Although some were killed before they could reach safety, nowadays many believe Ho saved about 5,000 Jews at the time. His heroics were not recognized during his lifetime, as he died in 1997. It wasn’t until 2000 that Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, awarded him the title “Righteous Among the Nations” and placed a plaque at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Another plaque is located at the former Chinese visa office in Vienna, now turned into a hotel.

Some compared Ho to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factory. I don’t know about Ho’s beliefs, but he reminded me of Shiphrah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who saved the Jewish baby boys from Pharaoh:
Ex 1:15-17 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birth stool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

The apostles did not obey evil orders either:
Acts 5:27-29 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

What’s in it for Ho? Nothing! In fact to do what’s right might cost him his life and everything he has. The same is true of the midwives and the apostles. I pray that all of us would have the courage to do the right thing when the time comes.

Plaque at former Chinese Visa Office in Vienna in German, Traditional Chinese, and English.

To Abort or Not Abort?

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Q. A church sister’s non-Christian relative is pregnant. The doctor told her the baby has congenital heart disease and will be born blind. Even if the baby survives infancy she will have lots of health problems throughout her life. He advised her to abort the fetus. What is your pastoral advice?

A. This is a very difficult ethical issue, especially when the parents are unbelievers and not expected to accept biblical principles in making decisions. The doctor is looking at the burden on the parents who might be facing a “life sentence” in raising a child with so many problems. There is also the cost to society in paying for medical bills. Abortion seems to offer a convenient way out.

The sister knows the sanctity of life. Even though the child is going to be problem-prone, she is still made in the image of God. We know abortion is wrong when the considerations are the parents’ lifestyle and pocket-book, but what about the child’s health problems? How does quality of life factor in? And why would God allow something like this to happen? What good can possibly come out of it?

Since prenatal diagnosis are only possible with medical advances made within the last few decades, there are simply no biblical precedents as to what to do when we know the fetus is going to encounter problems. All we have to go on are biblical principles and contemporary examples of life having fantastic value despite suffering severe handicaps from birth.

I can think of Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms and legs, but became an evangelist sharing his message of hope to over 6 million people in 57 countries:
http://www.nickvujicic.com/
Or Patrick Henry Hughes, who was born without eyes and unable to fully straighten his arms and legs, making him unable to walk. But with his father’s help he overcame incredible odds and became a multi-instrumental musician and public speaker:
http://www.patrickhenryhughes.com/
Had their parents chosen abortion, the world would have been robbed of tremendous motivation which we all need.

The counter-argument is that most people are not like them, who many consider to be rare examples out-of-reach of ordinary folks. I agree they are our models in the minority, but there are many other less well-known folks who are fighting valiantly despite overwhelming odds against them. I recall cases of babies born without brains:
https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/doctors-wanted-to-abort-boy-who-grew-a-new-brain-parents-said-no-and-hes-no
In this case the heroes are the parents, whose faith sustained them.

What if the baby dies soon after birth? What’s the point in that heartbreak? Even then a super-brave mom sees the silver lining in donating the healthy organs to save other young lives:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dad-writes-heartbreaking-tribute-to-wife-who-is-carrying-baby-without-brain-to-term_us_58ac892be4b06e5f777b2aa8
Of course I’m not the parents staring at a potentially bleak future, and unbelievers do not see the situation with a Christian worldview. But since I was asked I offer my humble opinion from a pastor’s perspective. Leave the life choice to God. He gives life in whatever form He chooses, only He has the right to take it. We ask for grace to carry through, as the brave parents have.

Turn the Other Cheek (2 of 2)

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(Continued from yesterday)

What about shirt & coat? The shirt is the inner garment, the coat the outer cloak, to keep warm while a person sleeps. In Jesus’ days a lender could legally keep a borrower’s shirt overnight as collateral, but must return his coat during the night so he can use it as a blanket:
Ex 22:26-27 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?
• Deut 24:12-13 If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you;

This was not the laws of the country, but Mosaic law in the Torah, & definitely not lawlessness. By asking a borrower to let the lender have his coat also, Jesus was asking us to give up our rights & go beyond what the law required.

Paul understood this principle very well, for he taught in
1 Co 6:7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

Regarding going two miles, under military law any Roman soldier can conscript a Jew to carrying his burden for a distance of up to one mile. This was the case when they pressed Simon of Cyrene into service to carry Jesus’ cross (Mt 27:32, Mk 15:21, Lk 23:26). By asking His disciples to go two miles, Jesus was again asking them to go the extra mile freely, not under compulsion.

Finally, with respect to giving & lending, Jesus was not asking us to be manipulated by panhandlers & acquaintances who want to take advantage of us, because we are supposed to be shrewd:
Mt 10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.

The principle is in:
1 Jn 3:17-18 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

Paul learned this well:
Rom 12:17-21 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

So all cases in fact relate to not insisting on your rights, not taking revenge in your own hands, but giving up rights and going the extra mile because you are now a child of God, for the sake of your testimony. Roman rule applies only to Mt 5:41, so the first commentator you quoted generalized too much. Besides, no one except those who are indwelt & filled with the Holy Spirit can do these. To require that of the lower social strata, who may not be Christians, is to ask for the impossible, which Jesus didn’t do. The second commentator caught the essence of what Jesus taught better, though he did not explain it enough.

As to your own observation, there are only two parties in Mt 5:38-42 – you & the second-party, be it an evil person, your creditor, a government authority, or a brother in need. There is no third-party peacemaker as in Mt 5:9. While it would be nice to have a reconciler to act as go-between, you do not have that luxury here. So Mt 5:9 does not really apply. Hope this helps.

Turn the Other Cheek (1 of 2)

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Q. What does Matt 5:38-42 “turn the other cheek” mean as applied to our time? A commentator says Jesus was showing the lower social strata how to live under Roman rulers. I have been told that it means not to retaliate against the evil doer or do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:21

Taking it literally and applying it to present time, I think there are other Christian ways to avoid the confrontation. The peacemaker in Matt 5:9 would apologize or say something diplomatic to the evil doer who would then stop hitting. If the evil doer hits without any reason, the peacemaker could run away to avoid further confrontation and harm. To offer the other cheek is a provocation, daring the evil doer to hit again. Am I off the track?

Give the outer garment – Jesus says to keep the laws of the country. By giving into lawlessness would be contradicting the law!?

A. First note the context. Jesus’ instructions were to contrast what the OT law said, which the Pharisees misinterpreted (5:38), with what God wanted (5:39-42). So what was originally intended?

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is a quotation from 3 passages:
Ex 21:24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
• Lev 24:20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.
• Deut 19:21 Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

The law’s intention was to:
• Fit the punishment to the crime,
Limit the punishment to the crime, to control excesses.
It was the guide given to judges to execute justice. The Pharisees, however, misapplied it to individuals taking matters into their own hands. Sinful men have a tendency to revenge. The extreme example is Lamech, who wanted to avenge seventy-sevenfold:
Gen 4:23-24 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
The Pharisees turned this law into an obligation for the victim to demand his rights to retaliate. The OT law was actually good in restricting going overboard, but the Pharisees turned it into a duty to avenge oneself.

Now what did Jesus mean? Let’s read the text in
Mt 5:38-42 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

First, what Jesus didn’t mean in v 39. He could not have meant let an evil person do whatever he wants unchecked, because that would have been contrary to God’s nature to judge sin. It also contradicts what He Himself did while on earth e.g.
Jn 2:14-15 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;

Then what did He mean? Notice the details “slaps you on the right cheek”. The average person is right-handed. For him to slap you on the right cheek he would have to slap you back-hand, which was a great insult in Jesus’ days. According to
Mishnah Bava Kamma 8:6 (Jewish oral tradition) One who slaps his fellow, he gives him two hundred zuz; with the back of the hand, he gives him four hundred zuz.
i.e. the fine is doubled.
The issue was not just physical assault, but contempt. Jesus was asking His disciples not to retaliate against personal insult, but to leave it in God’s hands.

(To be continued)

Pedophile Husband?

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Q. My niece’s husband, in his early 40’s, was a church youth director. He has been in jail since July for distributing child porn. I pray to God to tell her what to do. I said she should divorce him and separate him from their two early teen children (a boy and a girl). My sister said Christians should not divorce but I know this is an utmost case of immorality, which calls for divorce and dissociation to protect the children. A Christian cannot be a pedophile. A Christian cannot be under the same yoke with a non-believer. I realize she must be distraught but is hesitating to divorce him. How can I persuade her to do the right thing according to God’s will?

A. Yes God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), but He provides an exception in the NT:
M5 5:32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
• Mt 19:9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

The exception under which divorce is permitted is unchastity or immorality. Both words translate the Greek word porneia, from which we get our English word “pornography”. The literal meaning is “illicit sexual intercourse”, which includes:
• adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality (intercourse with animals);
• incest (sexual intercourse with close relatives), Lev 18;
• sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman, Mk 10:11-12.

The older lexicons did not list pedophile (sexual attraction towards children) or hebephile (sexual attraction towards adolescents) because these are relatively modern terms, but they would fall under the broad meaning of pornography. One must be careful to distinguish between an attraction and actually acting out one’s desire. The former is an urge which, if controlled, is not yet sin. The latter is unchecked lust and is sin.

For the youth director to distribute child porn, he has gone beyond private fantasy and crossed the line to sexual abuse of children. I don’t know whether he had molested children himself, but the materials he is distributing involved molesting and degrading children in their production, and fuel other pedophiles to perpetrate exploiting children. He had betrayed his family’s trust, and his wife has legitimate biblical grounds for divorce.

However, I must also add that while divorce is permissible, it is not mandatory. If he truly repents, God still forgives and so can his wife. It does take a long time to rebuild trust, but it is not impossible. Pedophilia is not the unpardonable sin. If she doubts his repentance, then for the sake of the children she should at least separate from him and take time to assess whether his repentance is genuine. This is protection for the children, and biblically permissible.

Ancient Boundary?

Proverbs 22 28 b

Q. What does Prov 22:28 “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” mean?

A. First, let’s find out what other passages have to say about “ancient boundary”:

Prov 23:10 Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless,
• Deut 19:14 You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess.
• Deut 27:17 Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark. …
• Job 24:2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.

The meaning becomes obvious immediately. Boundary markers are stones or stakes set up by people to mark his property’s boundary, separating his from that of his neighbor’s. They identify the property for future generations. To move the marker is tantamount to theft, seizing other’s property for oneself, and considered a very serious offense. The principle is “you shall not steal”, honoring other’s property rights.

Legal Matters

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Q. Does Mt 5:23-26 only apply to our brethren in our real family and those in our church? Would this mean that it is ok to go to court with other people, especially a dishonest Muslim contractor? I have a dishonest contractor that substituted cheaper material and I have to swallow the tremendous cost of fixing it. Should I take it as a reprimand from God because of my past iniquities? just like God had given Judah into the hands of Babylonians. If it is so, then I should take the reprimand like an obedient child. When people insists to be paid with cash to avoid paying tax, should I avoid hiring them?

A. First let’s examine Mt 5:23-26:

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

Notice the following:
Who: first, it is “brother” in v 23 & 24, also twice in v 22. Then it is expanded to “opponent at law” in v 25 (twice), not just “brother”.
What: they have “something against you” i.e. you have wronged them. This is different from your case, which is “they have wronged you”.
How: first be reconciled to your brother. Deal with the grievance first.
Why: sin that is not dealt with obstructs worship; also its consequences are severe.

Now let’s see whether this applies to you. The dishonest contractor is an “opponent”; whether he is Muslim or any other faith is irrelevant. You have something against him because he substituted cheaper material. A Christian should act honorably in all matters so that others do not have something against you, but you are not at fault here, he is. Should you take him to court? That depends on many factors, not just Mt 5:23-26:

1. Your attitude:
Rom 12:17-19 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, …
The word “never” appears twice here – never pay back evil for evil, and never take your own revenge. I don’t think you are trying to do that, but only seeking justice. While we aim to be at peace with all men, sometimes it’s not possible. An example would be the widow going to the unrighteous judge in Luke 18:1-8.

2. His attitude:
Lk 17:3-4 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
These verses address how to deal with a “brother” who sins. The principle is “if he repents, forgive him”, as forgiveness of sins is conditional upon repentance throughout the Bible. The contractor is not a brother. However, if you rebuke even a brother when he sins, shouldn’t that extend to a dishonest opponent? If he is not brought to justice, wouldn’t he continue to offend, cheat other customers, and more will suffer?

Based on what you described, I would not treat this as a reprimand from God:
Jer 31:34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
God forgives and “forgets”. It is true that sin always has consequences, and just as a cut would leave behind a scar even after it heals, sin has consequences even when forgiven e.g. David and Bathsheba. However, the chastisement is typically directly related to the sin, as God wants us to learn cause and effect and fits the punishment to the crime. Judah was unrepentant, that’s why God handed them to the Babylonians to teach them to repent.

I would avoid merchants who insists on being paid in cash to avoid paying taxes, as this betrays dishonesty. If he cheats on taxes, he can cheat on labor and materials as well. Sometimes contractors would quote a price including taxes (i.e. give a discount by absorbing the taxes themselves) to compete for the business, but that’s different from intending to evading taxes in the first place.