Chapter IV - Reconciliation, And The Tradition, And Jesus The Model Reconciler

Resources »EAPR »East Asian Pastoral Review 1997 »Chapter Iv Reconciliation And The Tradition And Jesus The Model Reconciler

On our pursuit of the way of reconciliation we have reviewed issues of the division in the Catholic Church in China and people's responses to it in chapter 1.  We also have discovered some conflicts with regard to political power and some obstacles standing on the road to reconciliation in chapter 2.  Thus, we have made some examination of the situation from the cultural and theological aspects in chapter 3.  The differences between the Western and Chinese cultures have contributed to the division and will have to be considered regarding reconciliation.  From the Chinese cultural point of view on relationship, we will now deal with this reality from the perspective of the Judaeo-Christian tradition.  Reflections on human relationships are needed by Chinese Christians and Church authorities to deal with impasses within the Chinese situation.


Our study of human relationships will focus on teachings of the Old and New Testaments.  After that we will turn to Jesus, the true reconciler, whose way of reconciling, has religious, cultural, social, and traditional implications in China today.


At the beginning of creation there is an order in God's original plan.  The relationship between God and the people of Israel comes first.  Law is secondarily established for people.  In a sense, relationships should be more important than law.  The covenantal language shows us clearly the intimate relationship between God and David's descendants (2 Sam. 7: 14; Ps. 89: 3-4; 132: 12).  "I am your God, you are my people."  This promise, the "covenant formula," is concisely but constantly repeated by God to his people in the history of the Old Testament (Ex. 6: 7; Lev. 11: 45, 26: 12; Dt. 4: 20; Num. 15: 41; Josh. 24: 17; Isa. 12: 6; 1 Kings 8: 21; 2 Kings 17: 7; Ps. 81: 10; Jer. 2: 6, 31: 33; Ezek. 37: 27).  The goal of human existence is to be in relationship with God who makes us in God's image, makes covenants with us, and at the end saves us.

The observance of law is based on of this relationship between God and his people.  In the Pentateuch, this kind of relationship is strongly emphasized through the covenant; law is mentioned later (Harrington 1981, 58).  For instance, the Sinai-Deuteronomy model of covenant with its emphasis on the people's obligations is taken up in postexilic times under Ezra (10: 3). Below, we shall discuss "covenant" and "law."  Both terms are related to our topic of "relationships" and would therefore be of help in understanding better the role of Chinese Catholics and the Church authorities in reaching  reconciliation.

Covenant and covenantal relationship: The Hebrew word for "covenant" is b‘r”t which is described as an agreement or a promise or an alliance or a treaty either in secular or religious terms.  M. Weindeld (cited in Harrington 1981, 55) suggests that four other meanings also need to be considered: meal, relationship, selection, and obligation.  In the Old Testament, covenant describes God's relationship with his chosen people, especially during the times of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Josiah, Jeremiah, and Ezra. Through the Bible, "covenant" is a major metaphor used to describe the relationship between God and Israel as well as the new Israel (the people of God) (Mendenhall and Herion 1992, 1179).

It is true that for ancient Israel, a new relationship was established between two parties as a result of a covenant, a relationship often expressed in kinship.  Likewise at Sinai, Israel recognized its kinship with Yahweh through the covenant.  Thus the people of Israel began a new relationship with God.  The covenant relationship was so important to Israel's sociopolitical and religious life that it became the basic axiom of Israel's religious experience and tradition.  Let us trace the covenant motif as it appears in several important biblical passages concerning God's relationship with Israel, God's chosen people.

The word covenant can be found in the description of the promise to Noah that God would never again destroy all flesh by flood (Gen. 9: 8-17).  The promise is not only to Noah, but also to every living creature of the earth.  The covenant with Abraham, in Genesis 17, is also like the one made with Noah.  From the above texts the following aspect of 'covenant' emerge: It is an agreement expressing God's unconditional commitment to people, especially to his chosen people (see Harington 1981, 56).

When we turn to the Sinai covenant, we find that it is made to Moses and Israel with conditions.  The relationship between God and his people depends upon the people's observance of certain stipulations (Exod. 19: 5).  Thus they have the Ten Commandments and the various legal cases and calendar regulations.  The relationship at Sinai is conditional upon Israel's obedience to the commandments and ordinances. It is from this conditional relationship that the law emerges.

Advantages and limitations of law: In a covenant a new relationship is established. In salvation history, there is no trace of law until a firm relationship has been established between God and Israel (Campbell 1988, 55).  The covenant law, the so-called "law of Moses" or the "Torah," begins in Exodus. Israel, who were slaves in Egypt, are freed from the oppression of Egypt and adopted as Yahweh's family.  The people of Israel receive the covenant from Yahweh: "I will be their God, they will be my people."  Thus they must live as God's people (Lev. 19: 4-6) and be faithful to Yahweh (20: 2-3).  The Israelites' relationship with God is reflected in their behavior towards one another.  Such behavior can be understood not as a condition to God's offer of love, but rather as a response to that unconditional love.  In this socioreligious setting, law takes its concrete form.  God has unconditionally called us to be his people, we need to obey His law in order for us to preserve and further the life that God has given us.  This is God's call and covenant.

In general, law is good because it is based on the fundamental idea of the ordering of society toward the common good which in a sense may be understood as the preservation and furthering of life in society.  In the Pentateuch it can be argued that law has for its aim the preservation and furthering of life.  The action of God in calling Abraham and leading Israel out of the bondage of Egypt through Moses has given Israel the gift of life in freedom and independence. The further gift of the law is portrayed as guidance for the full living of that life (Campbell 1988, 55-56).  For instance, the Ten Commandments are ways of keeping alive the life-giving relationship with God in the reality of daily life.  Guinan (1990, 64) also explains this in detail, from the social justice point of view.

The covenant at Sinai revealed an intrinsic connection between the nature of Yahweh and the demands of social justice. How Israel treated each other would be a sign and manifestation of how serious and wholehearted they were in their  worship of Yahweh. A special area of concern here was the treatment of the poor, the oppressed and the alien. Like the widow and orphan, the alien who lived in the land without any legal rights, was an especially easy victim for exploitation.

In this view, the law is not a condition.  It is a kind of direction pointing to the attainment and preservation of full human living, of peace, prosperity, and happiness (Campbell 1988, 57).  Bear in mind that the law in the covenant of Exodus 19: 5 appears to be conditional (see above).  But when seen in the light of verse 4, the aspect of unconditionality can be gleaned.  Even though the condition is not intended to determine the relationship between God and Israel, it expresses the quality of that relationship (Campbell 1988, 57; see also Weifeld 1972, 226-27).  The law helps people to have a right relationship and emphasizes their responsibilities.  However, it also conditions or reduces the possibility of their having an intimate relationship because of the system of rewards and punishments according to their observance of the law.

The law is critically challenged when the covenant between God and people is unconditional,  such as the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, David, even Phinehas (Num. 25: 1-18) and the Levites (Jer. 33: 19-22).  In these instances, God makes agreements which are much more in the nature of a promise which is unconditional, rather than a contract which is spelled out in terms of obligations on the part of two parties.  This highlights the fidelity of God, whose promise endures forever.  As the psalmist says, this is an "everlasting covenant" not dependent on the fidelity of the human agent.

If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with scourges; but I will not remove from him my steadfast love, or be false to my faithfulness.  I will not violate my covenant, or alter the world that went forth from my lips (Ps. 89: 30- 34).

There is mutual trust in this kind of covenant rather than strict law which requires or forces people to observe ordinances. The fidelity of God is the central message.

During the periods of exile, and later from 587 b.c.e. onwards, the law was still observed by the Jewish deportees (diaspora) to preserve their identity and for their security.  As the nation was subjugated and the temple destroyed by Gentiles, the Jews had no security because of these political persecutions.  Certainly they had also no chance to practice their cult legitimately.  Only the observance of particular requirements from the old law held the Jews of the dispersion together, amongst themselves and with those who remained in the homeland (Noh 1984, 66).  Likewise it could distinguish them as Jews who were bound by the same tradition, such as observing the Sabbath.

There is danger in a law covering all cases at all times, especially if it is overemphasized during periods of persecution such as the postexile period.  For example, to rest on the Sabbath was observed for Jews as one of the Ten Commandments since the Sinai Covenant (Exod. 20: 8). But in the postexilic period the observance among the diaspora served as a special token of the continuation of Israel's traditions (Ezek. 20: 11ff, 22: 8, 23: 38) and so found itself transposed to the central point of the old law-code.  In a word, the Sabbath was soon actually depicted as the distinguishing mark of the relationship between God and the Israelites (Ezek. 20: 12, 20).  As a consequence, it gained such importance that it was later connected with the creation story (Gen. 2: 2; Noh 1984, 66).  Such a rigid interpretation of the observance of law had even been handed down from one generation to another up to Jesus's time, so that it had to be corrected by Jesus (Mk. 3: 1-6).  When the controversy over the Jewish law from the Old Testament comes to a head, it is not only former Judaism that is confronted, but something which meets us in human history all the time everywhere.

For example, in China today there is a tendency for many faithful to overemphasize their bishops' legality. This is a consequence of the political confrontation between church and state, which led to the Vatican giving a series of exemptions according to canon law.  These exemptions have played a controversial role in the division.  The concern of some Catholics for the law at times gives the impression of overvaluing it. To observe the Sabbath is right, Jesus also did so, but not to the extent of becoming legalist.  Every Catholic bishop, including all bishops of China, should be a licit bishop according to the apostolic tradition and Church law. But when this emphasis and attention on legality becomes a primary concern of all faithful and the central feature of their relations with Church authority, it shows that they are straying too far from the spirit of Jesus.  We should stop running away from Jesus through our endless debates and start reflecting on, focusing on, and then turning to Jesus, our very center of faith.


 In the New Testament, a loving relationship with God is much more important than the observance of the law.  Observance of law is a passive action or attitude toward God; relationship with God as a friend depends on a positive choice and must come from one's heart.  Paul suggests that when God puts people right with himself that it has nothing to do with law.  It is done through their faith in Jesus Christ who willingly sacrificed his life for us (Rom. 3: 21-22, 25), and Christ is the end of the law (Rom. 10: 4).  There is a special relationship between God and believers because "by the free gift of God's grace, all are put right with him through Christ Jesus" (Rom. 10: 24).  To believe in Jesus means to respond positively to God who always takes the initiative.

Basic elements of human relationship are based on the "likeness" of God's Trinitarian relationship as clearly illustrated in the words of Eucharistic Prayer IV from the ancient Christians.

Father… you formed man in your own likeness and set him over the whole world to serve you, his creator, and to rule over all creatures. Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death, but helped all men to seek and find you (Eucharistic Prayer IV).

What kind of relationship is the relationship between God and humankind?  First, we are made in God's own "likeness" which is the image of the Trinitarian God (Gen. 1: 26-28).  "To be an image is to reflect another who comes first, another with whom we are tightly bound in relationship" (Guinan 1990, 24).  However, this close relationship is not between equals, but one of dependency.  We are fully dependent upon God. Secondly, it is God who initiates this relationship with us.  He starts by making a new covenant, "I am your God, you are my people."  But we human beings spurn his friendship.  However, the same God restores the friendship by covenant and he even sends his own Son, Jesus Christ who sacrifices himself on the cross because of his strong love for us.  As expressed in the same Eucharistic prayer quoted above,

Again and again you offered a covenant to man. . . . Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our savior.  He was born of the virgin Mary, a man like us in all things but sin. . . . In fulfillment of your will he gave himself up to death; . . . he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as his first gift to those who believe, to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace (Eucharistic Prayer IV).

Thus the key link in the relationship between God and humankind is love which comes from the ultimate love of the Trinity.  Fuellenbach (1993, 307) stresses that the Kingdom is ultimately God's self-communication to us in love.  The Trinitarian God loves one another so much that God shares the intimate loving relationship with humankind.  Bausch (1990, 50) has expressed the intimate relationship plainly through the Trinity.

The Trinity is a revelation that says relationship is what God is--no wonder you are imprinted with this, as if it's stuck into your neural system. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and no matter what else that means, it certainly is essentially relationship. What makes God God is relationship. . . .The whole impact of the revelation is this: Relationship is what God is about, and therefore it is no  wonder that we, who are made in God's image and likeness, are also essentially about relationship.

We also must bear in mind that Jesus comes to the world through a human family.  He is born and grows up completely in and through human relationships (Lk. 2: 22-39 ).  When he starts his mission in proclaiming the kingdom of God, he does not start with  the observance of the law but with the setting up of a loving community (Mt. 10: 1-4; Mk. 3: 13-20; Lk. 6: 12-16).  He chooses the twelve disciples to be with him and only later sends them out to bear fruit (Mk. 3: 14).  The phrase "being chosen" by Jesus means to have a new relationship with God and also among the disciples themselves.  "To be with me (Jesus)" means that the relationship among themselves shall progress from strangers to friends and brothers.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, through all the historical events, many human beings have been called by God and the Scriptures are a record of God's relationship with his people and a witness to the tradition of faith.  Indeed the history of humankind is the history of the relationship between God and human beings, and also of their own inetrrelationship.  This reality of relationships should be given primary importance.  The law, which is a product of a right relationship between God and Israel (the people of God) in being, surviving, worshiping, and struggling in and through human experience, should in a broad sense be given secondary importance.  Indeed there is the danger in overstressing the law and imposing this overstress on other cultures and traditions.  Not only does relationship come first and play an important role in the history of salvation, it is also important specifically to Chinese Christians.  For them it can play an outstanding role in the effort toward reconciliation in China today.  Both in the understanding of the Chinese culture and of the centrality of Jesus, the true reconciler, within Christianity, relationships are of primary importance.


Through relationships Jesus starts his mission to humankind whom he regards as his brothers, sisters, and friends (Jn. 15: 15-16).  By trusting us, he restores our human dignity and offers us opportunities to change our old life into a new life.  In doing so he reconciles us to the Father and to one another.  His attitude towards the relationships, law, political power, sinners, outcasts constitutes a key motive necessary for today's reconciliation in China.  We focus here on these attitudes of Jesus the reconciler in the hope that this can provide inspiration and enlightenment toward effective responses to the issue of division and the need for reconciliation in the CCC.


When people say to each other, "I am your husband/wife, you are my wife/husband," "I am your teacher, you are my students," and "I am your father, you are my son," they are indicating the kind of relationships established among them.  Thus are the couple relation, teacher-student relation, and father-son relation established and confirmed.  Similarly in the Old Testament, when God said, "I am your God, you are my people," a certain relationship was built up, a relationship subordinate to God.  God is our God, we are his people.  We belong to God; God takes care of us.  Many time the God of creation in the Old Testament seems like an autocratic ruler or a patriarchal father who not only takes initiative but also shows his almighty power and authority which subordinates us to him.  In the New Testament, Jesus affirms the close relationship of God with human beings.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master  is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you (Jn. 15: 16).

In this kind of relationship, there is an equality because we are called, and really become, friends of the Lord.  This relationship is based on and bounded in the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  That is why we can ask for anything from the Father in the name of the Son Jesus and it will be granted by the Father.  In the new relationship, Jesus is both Lord (Jn. 13: 13) and friend.  He embodies in one personage the ideal qualities of both a superior and a friend (Stowers 1991, 11-19).

Discipleship covers three levels.  Discipleship is first of all a gift.  No one have discipleship unless it is given to him (Jn. 6: 65).  Second, the essence of being a disciple is biblically expressed in the phrase to be with him, thus to learn from the master.  Third, discipleship means being sent out to witness to a life-experience.  Discipleship shows that Jesus works through a relationship.


When Jesus says to the disciples, "go and bear fruit" (Jn. 15: 16), it means to "go on mission."  Through a new relationship, Jesus starts his mission work.  No angels or strangers but those friends of Jesus are appointed and sent out to be witnesses to the kingdom of God.  Here there is trust because of their position as friends knowing their master's task.  As friends they also have a mutual intimacy and confidence on equal terms with the Lord.  The confidence in imparting the full message of  salvation from the Father to them must be given by Jesus.  The mission work is made very effective through their friendship.  Human experience shows that when you attach importance to someone, that person will be glad to offer his or her service to you; when you regard someone as a friend, that someone might be glad to go all out to serve you regardless of the consequences -- as in Chinese friend yi-qi.

Jesus shares happiness as well as suffering with his friends (Lk. 10: 21-24; Jn. 15-16), even his future plans (Jn. 14: 25).  He weeps with his friends (Jn. 11: 35), he tolerates his friends' mistakes and corrects them (Mt. 16: 23; Lk. 10: 41-45), helps his friends to overcome their difficulties, even sacrifices himself for them (Jn. 15: 13)  He forgives sinners (see below), stays together with them (Jn. 1: 39).  Friendship means that one shares in practical activities of life and that there is concrete mutual assistance and reciprocity (Marshall 1978 cited in Stowers 1991, 11-19).  Jesus as one of us, a best human friend, has experienced all these categories.

Jesus never looks down or doubts those he has chosen as his friends as well as his disciples who will carry on his mission.  In contrast he confirms and encourages these fishermen to be "fishers of people" (Mt. 4: 19; Mk. 1: 17).  Even when Peter is afraid of his worthlessness as a disciple of the Lord, Jesus strengthens and promises him and also the others: "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching people" (Lk. 5: 10).  The same Peter, as well as others, denies Jesus several times, but he is still assigned the greatest mission work to "take care of his sheep" by Jesus at Lake Tiberias (Jn. 21: 17).  Peter is not even scolded directly by the Lord for his disloyalty.  Jesus, however, questions him three times.  Does he doubt Peter?  To me he certainly does not. For some theologians or ecclesiologists the purpose of the questioning dialogue may be the commissioning of Peter for his pastoral authority (Lindars 1986, 633).  The questioning is not only a commission or reminder to Peter but rather a sign of hope, encouragement, and trust in Peter.  It seems that Jesus likes to work through those who are not perfect if they are repentant.  He trusts these sinners and also loves them.  He seems like a physician who is passionate about working for the sick (Mt. 9: 9: 12).  After their repentance, many "sinners" are sent for mission.  In response, Peter does not disappoint Jesus again.  He gives an excellent example for all Christians.  He becomes a martyr on the cross for Jesus and finally brings glory to God (Jn. 21: 18-19).

It is terrible and dangerous to regard someone else as more of a sinner than yourself.  In doing so, not only will you fail to make a friend of one, you will also fail to convert the person.  What is worse is when you suspect someone to be more of a sinner than he or she actually is.  But Jesus regards another as a friend and is able to trust his friend to the extent of entrusting important work to this friend.


In Jesus's relationship with sinners, he never regards them as sinners but as friends.  He always regards them as people loved by God.  He first accepts their way.  He even calls and approaches the tax collectors, the public sinners, as his friends, then sits down and eats with them in their homes or in public (Mt. 9: 11; Lk. 5: 29; Mk. 2: 15).  His deeds and words communicate the message that "I trust you as my friends, come to me, repent, and follow me" because he desires to give mercy and not mete stern judgment (Mt. 12: 7; 13: 13-12).  Public sinners and outcasts looked down upon by society and religious leaders are completely changed by Jesus' trusting approach.  They are moved by his friendship to repent and to lead a new life as Jesus's followers.

Table fellowship also plays an important role in Jesus's ministry.  Jesus so delights in eating with people, especially sinners, that he is often accused by Pharisees (Mk. 2: 16; Lk. 5: 30) of communing with the unworthy or worthless.  Eating and drinking together are not only basic human needs and a way of making friends.  They also have a quasi-sacred character.  They are religious acts and those who share in them see them as expressions of acceptance and friendship (Fuellenbach 1993, 192).  Through eating and drinking together in anticipation of the future in the kingdom, Jesus establishes a new relationship between God and his people, especially sinners, outcasts, the poor, and those socially or religiously marginalized who also have places in the Father's house.  These are called back to God, who prepares places at and invites them to his royal banquet in heaven.

It is sure and clear that Jesus always accepts sinners (Lk. 15: 11-31), outcasts, and the marginalized in his earthly ministry.  It is also true that Jesus promises, "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Mt. 7: 7; Lk. 11: 11).  One prominent aspect of Jesus's salvific work, such as seeking and saving the lost (Lk. 19: 10), is to approach and offer salvation freely to public sinners on his own initiative.  The meeting of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Lk. 19: 1-10) is not only surprising but ends with a dramatic result.

Zacchaeus is perhaps a curious but not a shy person because he is not only a tax collector but perhaps also a die-hard chief who probably is corrupt and has cheated others.  He must have heard stories about Jesus eating with sinners or with unpopular officials in other towns.  These excite his curiosity.  Unfortunately when Jesus enters his town, Zacchaeus is too short to see Jesus, much less approach him in the street because of the thick crowds. He then climbs a tree to see who Jesus is and how he looks.  Zacchaeus, to the people of Jericho, is looked down upon as a public sinner.  The townspeople's attitude is reasonable according to their religious tradition of ritual purity which forbids them from approaching public sinners.  So at this gathering no one pays respectful attention to him.  Therefore Zacchaeus himself, who is disdained by religious leaders, has probably no intention or even expectation of catching Jesus's attention.  However, as Jesus passes by the tree, he looks up suddenly and says in a friendly manner, "Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay in your house today" (Lk. 19: 6).  Jesus's greeting Zacchaeus in this open manner comes as a big surprise to the townspeople--and to Zacchaeus himself. Everyone turns to look at the chief, a representative of tax collectors.  Jesus's initiative, trust, and approach win Zacchaeus over immediately.  His dignity as a human person is suddenly restored in the eyes of the public by Jesus.  For a public sinner, being treated with dignity, being respected as a human being, is more effective than punishment, condemnation, and correction.  The Lord does not scold or correct him but looks at him as a friend with trust and openness.  Jesus's approach in trust and friendship are strong and effective enough to make Zacchaeus repent and turn toward a new life.  Zacchaeus is so happy to welcome Jesus in his house that he responds to him wholeheartedly at table, "Lord, I will give half my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone,  I will pay him back four times as much" (Lk. 19: 18).  Zacchaeus is converted and the gap between God and sinner, filled by God's reaching out in trust and friendship.  It is friendship working and converting rather than the observance of the law which demands that one avoid sinners.

Further, Jesus commands his disciples to love one another (Jn. 15: 17): Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus is the link for the disciples and all Christians to establish a loving relationship in a community.  Since Jesus's friends are our friends (Jn. 11: 11).  Jesus's Father is also our Father (Mt. 6: 9).  The intimate relationship between the Father and humankind is also realized through the Son, Jesus (Jn. 14: 20).  Therefore Jesus is the link between God and humankind as well as between human beings themselves.


Jesus, who is different from Old Testament figures such as Moses, is not representative or typical of the legalistic religious man, of the lawmaker.  Certainly Jesus neither rejects the old law nor wants to replace it with his own law.  He does not create any new law but rather teaches the commandment of love (Jn. 13: 34).  He observes the law on many occasions as by going to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Mk. 6: 2), and even says that he has come to fulfill it (Mt. 5: 17).  Jesus fights forcefully against Pharisaic legalism but not the law, which in itself manifests God's ruling will, God's goodness and fidelity.  The law is also a document and proof of God's grace and love for his people, and it demands not only the accomplishment of good deeds but an attitude of the heart (KŸng 1984, 240).  For Jesus the law is not the supreme norm permitting no dispensation.  Hans KŸng insists that the will of God is the supreme norm throughout the whole of the New Testament (see Mt. 6: 10, 26: 42; Lk. 22: 42; Mk. 3: 35; Mt. 7: 21).

Many people think that to merely observe the law is to carry out the will of God.  As a result there develops a pious formula.  Following the letter and not the spirit of the law is an attitude of legalism which Jesus completely rejects.  Humankind's relationship with God is obviously not established by a code of law, without our being personally involved.  We must submit ourselves, not simply to the law, but to God: to accept all that he demands of us in a wholly personal way (KŸng 1984, 243).

We discuss the text of John 7:40-52 and John 9 as examples which may aid us in illustrating Jesus's attitude towards the law and those who ignore the law.  These passages tell of a division among a crowd due to a debate as to whether Jesus is a prophet or the Christ.  On this text Robert J. Karris (1990, 34) argues that "the crowd" not only represents folks who are open and struggling to believe in Jesus, but also folks who are held in low esteem and marginalized by the religious leaders.  In the eyes of the religious leaders, the crowd is accursed because they are ignorant of the law and God's revelation in the law (Jn. 7: 49).  Moreover, they have no basis for judging what is from God and what is not from God.  The religious leaders, who often give guidance on and explanation of the law, do not believe in Jesus because they are limited by their interpretation of God's law which they claim to know so well.  This can be clearly seen in the dialogue in John 7: 40-52.  The religious leaders make much of the crowd's ignorance of the law and no comprehension of how those marginalized people could respond so openly from their hearts to Jesus.  In contrast they glory in their own knowledge of the law.  In John 9: 28 the Pharisees take arrogant pride in being disciples of Moses and in 7: 45-49 flaunt their knowledge of the law.

The religious leaders find security in the law but find a threat in Jesus. They are the faithful disciples of Moses, to whom God had spoken, so that they cannot accept Jesus and his teaching (Jn. 9: 29).  Their knowledge of the law becomes an obstacle to their acceptance of Jesus's teaching (Jn. 7: 45-49).  In Matthew 11: 19 and Luke 7: 34, we also hear repeatedly how tax collectors and sinners welcome Jesus whereas the religious leaders do not.  All these imply that a person is justified not by legal observance but by faith in Jesus Christ, and that we too believe in him in order to be justified by faith in Christ, not by observance of the law, for by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal. 2: 16).

The background of John 9 is that when the disciples see a blind man, they wonder aloud whose sin caused the man to be born blind.  Jesus's concern is totally different from that of the disciples: he heals the blind man.  His action shows that to heal the sick, to show God's compassion to those physically marginalized, and to help the needy are the most important mission for Jesus.  We can follow in his spirit by considering the needy first in our ministry, not by being overly concerned with whom to blame for their plight and other legalist questions.  That is our task and we should learn from Jesus in our ministry in China to find out first of all what the needs of people are today.


Is Jesus political or apolitical or does he have a neutral attitude towards political  power?  Why is there a tendency for the New Testament churches to show Jesus to be "politically innocuous"?  This is what we  are going to investigate. It is reasonable to put questions to history.  Thus, historical and theological investigations may aid us in seeing clearly Jesus's attitude towards political power or at least understanding better the early Church's political attitude.  We may learn a lesson from Jesus and the early Church to deal with the contemporary issue of political conflicts in China.

People made Jesus apolitical in order to avoid persecution of the church.  Evangelists and the early Church have made Jesus an apolitical figure.  Both Brandon (1970, 453)  and Schillebeeckx (1980, 570) agree that there is a tendency in the New Testament authors to make Jesus apolitical, for the purpose of avoiding the provocation of the pagan authorities and the persecution of the Church.

In the four Gospels, Jesus is presented as an apolitical, peaceful "king of the Jews."  In history after 66-70 c.e., Jews were almost regarded as "zealots" or some even as "rebels" against Rome.  And since Christianity arose from Judaism, there is an attempt, especially in Mark, to depict Christianity and the zealots as two completely different movements.  It is obvious that the Romans were responsible for Jesus's execution.  John has Jesus arrested by the Roman soldiers (Jn. 15: 10), but this is done in Mark mainly by representatives of the Jewish authorities (Mk. 14: 43).  Mark not only puts all blame chiefly on the Jewish authorities, but even defends the Romans: Pilate finds Jesus innocent and wants to save him by bringing in Barabbas.  Obviously "the Gospel of Mark has a tendency to make Jesus an apolitical, even almost a pro-Roman pacifist" (Schillebeeckx 1980, 270).  Following a further political, historical, and theological investigation, it seems that the Gospel of Mark shows that Jesus is detached from the concrete and contemporary political context.  While Mark reveals an inclination not to blame the Romans too much in order to avoid persecution, he also shows that Jesus and the Christians are loyal citizens.  This is not contradictory to their Christian faith.  It is similar to Paul's theological-political view (Rom. 13: 1-7; see Cassidy 1987, 118-43).

This became the general attitude too of early Christians who prayed for all kings and those in authority so "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1 Tim. 2: 2).  Paul was both a Roman citizen and a diaspora Jew and this influenced his theological or ecclesiological thinking: it was possible to be a good Christian and citizen of a country both at the same time.  Such a line of thinking developed in diaspora Judaism and was also often seen in the period of exile (Schillebeeckx 1980, 573-75; see Song 1980, 62-65).

Was Jesus a political figure?  "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above" (Jn. 19: 11).  This text is very often interpreted to mean that for John the authority of the state comes from God. Actually Jesus says nothing about this view (Schillebeeckx 1980, 581).  John is concerned with the will of the Father (Jn. 18: 11) that Jesus should take the cross of suffering for humankind.  In the text of paying tax from Mark 12: 13-17 there is also nothing about Jesus's attitude towards political power.  At least the Gospels do not show any direct teaching of Jesus on political policy.  On the contrary Jesus evidently does not want to pay any tax (Lk. 23: 2).  In short we cannot infer from the Gospels anything about Jesus's political view.

When Jesus hears that John the Baptist was executed by Herod, he leaves and goes to a lonely place (Mt. 14: 10-13).  Harrington (1989, 883) suggests that Jesus's suspicions about Herod's interest in him causes him to depart.  But it seems to me that neither fear because of the death of John nor trouble from Herod is the motive for Jesus's withdrawal, but rather the shunning of political involvement.  Because there is a large number of people following him by land he even goes by boat (Mt 14: 13-14).  Those people came and sought Jesus in order to make him their king (Jn. 6: 15) so that their "kingdom of David" may be restored.  This is not surprising for Jesus because even his apostles had political motives.  They sought good positions and even political power in their expected messianic kingdom of David (Mk. 10: 37).  They expected him to be the Messiah, the political descendant of David.  But it is evident that Jesus is not interested in a political movement to solve the problem.  He avoids Jewish nationalist enthusiasm and political involvement.

A faith attitude towards the political situation; Jesus's main concern is the kingdom.  There is no direct evidence of either a "political" or an "antipolitical" Jesus from the Gospels.  He is not interested in politics.  His main concern is the proclamation of the kingdom of God and dealing with the oppressed and marginalized which have wider political implications.  Jesus's message of the kingdom is not a program of political-social action, yet in a sense his message has political implications when he questions the very basis of the religious-social system.  So if we take Jesus as our standard, we cannot turn the Christian message directly into a program of political-social action.  But we must even today take seriously the political implications of the Christian message (KŸng 1984, 555).  It is dangerous to make Jesus an absolute political or apolitical figure.  It is also not correct to separate faith and politics completely.  In the words of Schillebeeckx (1980, 586), "Christians from generation to generation, must determine their attitudes toward the political situation by faith."

For the CCC, political conflict is one of the main causes of the division.  On one hand, Chinese Catholics' attitude towards politics and country is a very sensitive issue to the CCG.  National problems are often mixed up with political problems.  In the end people are always faced with and treated as political-national problems.  Against this complicated background, Christians' attitude towards political issues and the government can either reduce the tension between the state and the Church or the Vatican, or it can also make the situation more complicated and tense.  On the other hand, cooperation and mutual respect are more important than confrontation.  There is no need for the UC to hide while administering the sacraments.  At the same time, the OC should not be a tool or "puppet" of the political power, but must act as a true apostolic and local Church in every aspect in communion with the universal Church.  Not antagonism but dialogue and friendly mutual collaboration are needed.  In short the CCC must first pay attention to the faithful's well-being and love for the country, guided by what they have learned from Jesus and the early Christians and their experiences.  Chinese Catholics have to act wisely in faith.


Jesus's work of reconciliation can be seen from the perspective of God as creator or from that of the man/woman created.  The three elements in the reconciliation process are: love as the unifying force concern for the needs of the one created, and self-sacrifice.


The Trinity is a unity of love.  From the love of Father and Son comes the Holy Spirit.  In this, their love finds perfect fulfillment.  God in creating man and woman allows them to share in this love.  In doing this (Fuellenbach 1993, 307), God manifests his love for them.  Life and love are God's gifts to them, and they are given without limit in the person of Jesus Christ (De Mesa 1991-1992, 189-96).  The Father loves the Son and the Son the Father.  Because the Son loves the Father, he also loves human beings.  His love is not only directed toward his Father, but to all of humanity.  He considers men and women to be his brothers and sisters.  In him they have become sons and daughters of the Father.  This sole mediator between God and humanity becomes in reality the bridge that joins the life and love of the Father to his very own children.  We do well to reflect on the love of Christ.  While we speak of our love and our desire to maintain faith, professing our loyalty to him, do we indeed love our Father, brothers and sisters as he does?  And has he not said to us plainly: "You are my friends if you keep my commandment" (Jn. 15: 14).


Jesus brings the gift of salvation to all humankind. If God has bestowed upon us life and love, Jesus has shown us the full meaning of these gifts in his concern for the needs of all people.

Jesus reconciled us with God through his spirit of loving compassion.  He came to serve us, to forgive us, to lift us up after we had fallen.  He freed the oppressed in spirit, released from captivity all who had fallen under the dominion of the devil.  He healed the brokenhearted and brought back those to God who had wandered away or had been trapped in the evil of social structures, reconciling them to the Father and restoring their lost dignity as the sons and daughters of God.  Jesus brought new life to the sad and new hope to the depressed.  He loved to be with children, to serve his own disciples, and to enter the lives of the people of his time, sharing their laughter and their tears.

Not only did Jesus reconcile men and women with God, he admonished us to be reconciled with one another.  He made it the one condition for receiving God's gift of communion, telling us that we must first be reconciled with each other before offering our gifts to our Father in heaven.  And in his healing ministry he cured the crippled, the blind, the leper, and the possessed that they might be restored whole and entire to society.  It was to reconcile them to the community that he worked his miracle, enjoining this same curing and reconciling ministry upon his Church.

Jesus set about answering the needs of human beings.  His proclamation of the Good News demonstrated his concern for them.  He gave short shrift to any form of legalism, and went beyond the limits of the law to meet their needs.  He fed the hungry, cured those crippled from birth, and raised the dead.  In his depiction of the Last Judgment, Matthew leaves us a vivid example of the centrality of service in the ministry of Jesus.  We are to imitate his concern for the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the needy.  This is the path of goodness that we must take in order to restore the broken divisions within our communities.

When we reflect on the divisions among us, do we not see too great an emphasis being placed on the legal aspects of the problem, not only by Church officials but also in the attitude of the "bridge" churches as well?  The important needs of the Chinese Catholics should be seriously taken into our consideration instead.


After a life-long ministry of reconciliation, Jesus brought his life to a climactic conclusion by offering his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He used his own death as a means of restoring the broken relationship between God and people. He sealed this new covenant of reconciliation with his own blood.

It is not uncommon for people to offer their material possessions, even their lives, in sacrifice to the Lord.  It is also worth our while to ask whether we are willing or courageous enough to offer in sacrifice our personal advantage, our opinions, reputations, social status, and positions of power to bring about unity and reconciliation.  If we had the courage of our Christian convictions to truly sacrifice ourselves on behalf of the Church, a great change would take place! Our efforts would go a long way towards resolving our present divisions.

Jesus came to preach the kingdom of God but not himself; but after the Easter, Jesus, the preacher of the kingdom, became the preached.  Jesus identified with the message of the kingdom, became the message.  Through him we see clearly the kingdom, which for the masses is always the center of Jesus's preaching. He was, is, always will be totally dedicated to his Father and his mission for the people (Fuellenbach 1993, 278-306).


Jesus reconciles through his unconditional love.  He excludes no one.  He acts to relieve suffering.  He comes to us as one who serves.  This calls for reflection but even more for action.  Both the OC and UC who now claim support for the pope should be open to and accept each other.  There must not be a looking down upon priests whose training we deem insufficient; nor envy toward those who have met the pope and who have more extensive contact with the outside churches than we have.  Grudges should not be held against those who have made mistakes or walked down crooked paths.  In fact we would do well to put an end to all discussions about the rights and wrongs of the past and focus instead on the needs and possibilities of the present.  It is time to respond to Jesus's invitation to come together again as a united and loving community.

In these days when the nation's economy is making dramatic progress, the Church's opportunities for serving others and bearing witness to the presence of the Lord in our midst multiply.  There is the task of lessening the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.  Secondly in light of the declining influence of Maoist thought, it is a time when many Chinese are looking to find new ideals, to seek out new ways of fusing the world of the past with that of the present.  The worship of money and the spirit of hedonism are creating a whole series of new moral problems for society that must be addressed and resolved.  Thirdly we must face the fact that China is a developing country and is still very poor.  Under such circumstances, both the OC and UC must support each other and unite in their common concern to serve society.  After all, the church should take up the "joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties" (Gaudium et Spes 1) of the people of the age.  While grateful for the help given us by our friends overseas, the local Church must not become overly dependent on overseas capital.  The goal ought to be self-reliance, and we must cultivate this principle as a basis for our social activity.

In our efforts to develop our social services, precautions must be taken to avoid the trap of seeing everything from a materialistic point of view.  If we as Church follow in the footsteps of Jesus, bringing his spirit and teaching to a materialistic society, we can help transform that society and bring a newer and higher meaning and purpose to its ongoing pursuit of material, spiritual, and social well-being.  This is perhaps the area where the government will work hand in hand with the church  because it falls within the realm of its own advocacy for founding a new material and spiritual civilization to serve the good of all its citizens.

Reconciliation consists of a love expressing itself in concrete deeds.  Living out this truth in practice remains our primary focus for study and action.  We will find ourselves, as we address this task, drawing closer and closer to the kind of unity we all hope to achieve.  For the present, we must put an end to our wrangling over who is right and who is wrong, and turn instead to concentrate our efforts on works of charity.  Recall the admonitions of the Lord himself who taught in word and deed that love is greater than sacrifice and stronger than the law itself.  The bond of charity that unites Christians as a community is far more precious and stronger than the power of any legal contentions  that would seek to separate and drive us.  To this end, the virtue of compassion is surely a key, if not the key, to reconciliation.  Once again we look to Jesus to learn what compassion is.


About twenty-five hundred years ago in the Far East, Zigong, a disciple of Confucius, asked, "Is there a word that can serve as the basic principle of conduct throughout one's whole life?"  So the negative Golden Rule was given by the master: "It may be the word Shu: do not impose on others, what you yourself do not like" (Tsai 1989, 105; see also Analects 15: 23 in Legge 1989, 351).  When one of the disciples of Confucius asked whether the sage's teaching could be summed up in one sentence, another answered, "Yes, the master's teachings are true-heartedness and compassion towards others and nothing more" (Wu 1980, 38).  Almost two thousand years ago in the Middle East, a Jewish lawyer questioned Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Lk. 10: 15); a scribe, "Which commandment is the first of all?" (Mk. 12: 28).   The Lord's answer: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself" (see Mt. 22: 37; Mk. 12: 30; Lk. 10: 27).  This has become the distinguishing mark of Jesus whom Christians imitate.  Jesus's teaching also can encapsulated in one sentence: "Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets" (Mt. 7: 12).  Both the negative Golden Rule of Confucius and the positive Great Commandment of Jesus are concerned with others in human relationships: to have right relationships with one another in the family and the neighborhood, expanding to society.  Both ethics of humanity culminate in the loving of the fellow human being (Küng and Ching 1989, 118). 

Chinese people consider ren, which derives from the main doctrine of Confucianism, as their central virtue, as we mentioned in the previous chapter. There are various meanings to the Chinese character ren, such as: "love," "goodness," "benevolence," "human-heartedness," "kindness," or the "quality of being a compassionate" and "benevolent human being."  Thus, ren, as a main virtue, is regarded as the highest perfection of goodness among the Chinese, while zhong (loyalty), yi (righteousness), shu (reciprocity), and li (propriety or ritual) are often associated with or related to ren.  For instance, in the words of Smith (1973, 67),

Ren also consists in loving others (Analects 12: 21).  This love for others is made evident by the virtues of loyalty and consideration, for loyalty consists in the entire devotion of oneself to the best interests of another, and consideration consists in never doing to others what one would not wish done to oneself.  Qualities of loyalty and consideration will not breed any resentment either in family life or in social affairs and so the virtue of ren will be extended to others.

There are related meanings of ren-yi such as "humaneness," "benevolenceness," "mercy," "compassion," "kindheartedness," "forgiveness," "wisdom," "generosity," "kindness," towards perfection, "righteousness," "loyalty," "duty," "obligation," "justice," "faithfulness," "covenant," blessing."

When I try to find a common ground between the Chinese culture, particularly of the Confucian ren, and the tradition of Christianity, the field of human relationships easily presents itself.  In etymology as well as in interpretation, ren is also and always concerned with human relationships (KŸng and Ching 1989, 69).  Jesus works and reconciles through human relationships.  But when I probe into the Chinese culture in this chapter as well as in chapter 3, questions of division engulf me.  I am plagued by division.  Why is there division among Chinese Catholics?  Can we put all blame upon foreign cultural impositions, such as those through Church authorities and foreign missionaries?  How much should Chinese culture be responsible for the embarrassment of division and the slow process of reconciliation?  In short, I must question myself and reflect on my Chinese culture with my fellow Chinese.  Is division itself a weakness in part of the Chinese culture?  After all, culture influences people.  Cultural reflection and self-criticism inspired by the spirit of discipleship must be done together in this study of doing Christology.

A Chinese author, Baiyang, has written a well-known book in Mandarin, Ugly Chinese.  In his book he illustrates all weaknesses of the Chinese as well as Chinese culture.  As we end this chapter, we briefly mention some of these limitations of the Chinese culture related to our topic.

In Chinese society, we find many sayings about how people take their revenge on their enemies, to vindicate their parents and country. Here are some relevant phrases:

Pay life with life.

It is never late to avenge a noble cause.

It is human to take revenge.

You will pay for your forefather's debt.

Revenge seems to be regarded as an element of basic justice.  It is a view quite similarly held by the ancient Israelites: "If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand . . . wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Exod. 21: 23-25).  Certainly forgiveness is also advocated by Confucians, who insist on ren: Sharen buguo toudiandi (Forgive your tormentor if he kneels down in front of you and asks you for pardon).  But the narrower limits on the love of neighbor is confirmed by Confucius's controversial principles.  For instance, 

Someone asked, "What about return kindness for injury?"  The master said, "What then will you return kindness with?  Injury should be returned with correctness (or justice); kindness should be returned with kindness (Analects 14: 36).

Jesus is, however, very different from either the Confucians or ancient Israelites: "Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Lk. 6: 26; Mt. 5: 43).

As we have mentioned in the previous chapter, society is often regarded as a large family by Confucians, -- "Within the four seas all men are brothers"(Analects 12:5).  But there is still a limitation set in loving one's neighbor, as seen from Confucians' five relationships.  It also seems that most of the audiences of Confucius are educated people, members of high classes, the learned elite,s even rulers such as prime ministers or kings, but not poor, outcasts and marginalized, so that right relationships -- order in feudal society, being wise or good rulers and nationalism -- are emphasized.

When the importance of one's culture and nationalism is emphasized forcibly by a whole country, others' culture and tradition may be neglected, even underestimated by the powerful.  There is a tendency for a such a nation to regard other nations as man yi (savages) or man zi (barbarians) and man zu (barbarian tribes).  In many ancient Chinese minds, China was alone at the center of the world.  China regarded itself as the Middle Kingdom for centuries, all others were "barbarians" or titled as nanman (southern barbarians), beiman (northern barbarians), dongyi (eastern barbarians), and xiyi (western barbarians).  Is China too proud of its culture, as  Israel was arrogant because of its identity as God's chosen people (Song 1982, 21-64)?  Is it so hard for the Chinese to acknowledge being enriched by other cultures and traditions?  Or do they think they can only absorb the other cultures?  Perhaps Chinese culture, like that of the Jews, needs to be purified and to be widened in its understanding of ren, from a self-satisfied national Chinese ren to a wider universal ren. Reconciliation may be easier to achieve through a harmonious blending of Chinese culture and Jesus's teachings.

God, in Jesus, is the God of compassion of all nations and of all people especially the poor, oppressed, and the anawim.  How long was Israel self-complacent as a favored people and nation?  How long has China, including many of today's Chinese, been satisfied blindly with its great culture and five thousand year history of civilization in the world?  The self-importance of Chinese rulers, as well as that of their citizens, had developed into self-conceit.  While other nations learnt from each other and developed together, the door of China was closed to the world for ages, in older times by emperors as well as by the Chairman in modern times.  They were satisfied with their vast land, enormous population, and great civilization.  As a result, China is behind other countries, including those which had been historically less developed and were regarded as barbarians by China.

Many Chinese have been scattered from their motherland.  Did the Jews of the diaspora realize the positive meaning of the exile from God?  Jesus, the God of all nations, disturbed the Jewish "sweet dream" of being God's chosen people and the restoring their expected Davidic kingdom.  In modern times, it has been painful for the Chinese to experience China's decline, which forcibly attacks their arrogance, their pride in their ancestors' civilization.  It is a national shame and a reminder to the Chinese that they were invaded and bullied by "foreign barbarians"  In the twentieth century, when Mao Zedong closed the door of China in 1950s, the Chinese diaspora had to settle in foreign lands and to learn from those "barbarians".  Perhaps this painful experience might be able to awaken these Chinese, including the diaspora, from their complacency and conceit toward "gentiles" as well as their own brothers and sisters.  In the eyes of our compassionate God, there are no flesh-and-blood distinctions between family and strangers, Jewish and gentile, white and yellow people, Chinese and "barbarians."  All are God's children (Mt. 8: 12; Lk. 13: 31).  God's compassion is manifested by the divine attitude toward those who are the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and even public sinners such as the woman caught in adultery (Jn. 8: 11).  The Gospels are records of God's compassion.

As we mentioned earlier, every culture including the Chinese culture, is not perfect and therefore has negative aspects.  For instance, we have seen weakness in  Confucians thought as to the scope of love of neighbor.  We need to bear this in mind when we apply the title "reconciler" to Jesus in the spirit of ren-yi.  The difference between Jesus and Confucius in their teaching of how to love one's neighbor is marked by Jesus who says that our neighbors are the needy and that we should love them as we love ourselves (Lk. 10: 25-37).  "Neighbor" is not to be interpreted in terms of a widening circle of outreach from family to clan (De Mesa 1987, 205) and to society as Confucian thought suggests. Rather, the "neighbor" is anyone in need whom we come across.

"Who do you say I am?" Jesus asks his disciples.  "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," replies Peter, on behalf of the community, and based on their experiences of Jesus (Mt. 16: 15-16).  "Who do you say I am?" -- if the Lord Jesus directs this question to the Chinese Catholics of today, what answer would they give?

In Chinese society, good and kind persons are called haoren; compassionate and generous persons, shan-ren; peacemakers, heshilao; humane or wise persons and rulers), xianzhe, xianjun; officials acting as parents, fu-mu-guan.  Those who bring peace, justice, liberation, and well-being are always regarded as renyi zhishi (a person of ren-yi).  Who then is Jesus for the Chinese and how are we to address him?  We may say to him, "You are our haoren, he-shi-lao, and jiu-xing (saving star).  Ren and ren-yi are excellent moral models for the ideal person in Chinese thought and society.  Jesus fully deserves to be ren or a ren-yi zhishi to the Chinese.

Moreover, he is a compassionate God, whose teachings are reflected in those of Confucius, who advocates loyalty and shu; of Mencius, who loves all; and Lao-zu, who interprets ren as universal love and loves everyone without distinction.  Jesus is a perfect personification of ren-yi.  He has all the traits of ren or ren-yi, and more.  His characteristic compassion covers the whole of his ministry.  Yes we can name Jesus as a ren or a person of ren-yi and when we name Jesus ren and a person of ren-yi as well as a compassionate God, we must follow him as his true disciples and practice as he does in our daily life, particularly in working for reconciliation today.  The God of compassion and ren will help us look at the CCC with a compassionate and ren mind and an orientation and perspective which will lead us out of the impasse and toward a wider reconciliation.

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