Sunday, March 06, 2005

Thomas, retired judge, baby Christian

Thomas came to my class soon after converting to Christianity. He was a retired judge and the uncle of May the prominent doctor I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. Thomas had long been interested in Christianity, but was afraid to become a Christian because his parents were against it. Thomas didn't follow the local religion, but his parents did. So he waited until they died to become a Christian.

In Taiwan, most people follow a Buddhist-Confucian system which emphasizes ancestor worship. The oldest son has a special responsibilty to take care of his parent's spirits after they die. He must have a special mantle in his house where he offers incense and prayers for his ancestors. On certain days he must "offer" them food and "spirit money", to provide for them in the afterlife. Ancestors who are not cared for will come back as ghosts and make trouble for the living.

I enjoyed having Thomas in my class. His English was good, he had that certain freshness that only new Christians have, and he was not afraid to speak his mind. In the course of discussing forgiveness and the 2-28 Incident, Thomas shared that he had been a student during that time and some of his professors were taken away by the government and never seen again. This illegal action outraged Thomas and his fellow students, but there was nothing they could do. I think that is what motivated him to study law and become a judge. Even though he came from a successful family, became rich, powerful and respected; he always felt the government was an oppressive enemy of his people.

I taught Thomas and the class many things the year he attended and he received them with joy. Until I taught Matthew 5:44

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
I exhorted the students to really forgive their enemies. Thomas stood up in class and explained why he hated his enemies. I then reaffirmed that Jesus wanted him to forgive just as he wanted the Jews to forgive their enemies including the oppressive Roman government. Finally Thomas boldly declared that he would not forgive his enemies. He also said, "If that is what it takes to be a good Christian, then I cannot be a good Christian!"

That was the last day Thomas came to my class. Of course, I still see him around the church once it a while. (Its a big church.) I hope he has continued to grow in the Lord. He reminds me of the rich young ruler. Jesus loved the rich young ruler and showed him the way of perfection. The rich young ruler however loved the world more than God and sadly rejected Jesus' message. I imagine that Jesus was the sadder of the two.