Open Letters

An open letter to Lai mino.

March 9, 2015

Are we still going to watch from the sideline?  What is our responsibility in the Chin community? Should we still leave it up to the “elders”? Are we accountable for the sins of the old and new generation? Do we blame the previous generation?

I think these are probably the questions that we all ask ourselves as we grow up in the church and see the needs within the church. This post is to challenge and encourage our Lai minos. I say we move on from the blaming stage to the rebuilding stage.

Of those who read this post, 65% of you are not too where you are going when you die (maybe it is time to accept Christ as your Lord). Of those who read this post, 74% of you may be attending Lai church just because your parents/friends go to church and/or you are in some leadership positions. Of those who read this post, 90% of you may be feeling spiritually dry because your needs are not met and your questions always go unanswered. Of those who read this post, 15% of you actually wants to make a difference in Lai community. Whichever percentage (of course I make those numbers up by guessing) you may belong to, I believe you will find this post personal for you because you are a Lai mino and you grow up with them.

Before I move on further, I want to note that there is no perfect church and there will never be until Christ returns. If you think that the church will meet your needs, I want you to strip that thought away, before you continue reading. Only Christ can meet all your needs. Not your church pastors, parents, leaders, spouses, friends, or anyone of this world. These people can be means by which God can meet your needs, but they will not always satisfy you. Sometimes, we come with a lot of expectation for our churches, and there is nothing wrong with that. But an ideal church is far away when it is mixed with sinners like ourselves, and in fact, the churches of Corinth and Galati were in similar situations. If they were so great, why would Paul have written those letters to the churches – he was concerned over the sins that were rooted and encouraged in the churches, and that is why he instructs everyone to fight against sins. Seriously though, a church may seem perfect until you step into that church.

Looking into the Biblical Theology of ‘church’ in the New Testament Ekklesia, the gathering of God’s people. But the church in the New Testament traces its roots to the Old Testament about the people of God. The old covenant that God had with Moses is made new when the church enters a new covenant with God in 2 Corin 3:4-18, initiated by divine grace and sealed by Christ’s blood (1 Corin 11:25). Israelites were called the kingdom of priests and holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6) and this is similar to the church of the new covenant. The church is usually tied up with the temple and the temple is Christ and later in the New Testament, we see that the temple is the people of Christ where the Holy Spirit dwells. The church is not a static building, but the gathering of the followers of Christ. We are the body connected to the head, that is Jesus Christ. The church building itself is not holy or valuable, but the people are. In the Gospel of John, it stresses a lot about individual relationship between the believer and the Lord, and it also equally stresses the communal aspects of faith. In fact, if you don’t belong to a church, it can be said that you don’t belong to Christ. The church is the family where one grows in his/her faith because it functions as the household of God and it is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). It is the gathering of people where you learn to forgive, encourage, nurture, rebuke, and love one another. You don’t just make those practices to the world without first learning in your own family, the church. That’s why 1 John 4:20 talks about a man loving God and hating his brother and sister. It is not just his biological siblings here, but spiritual siblings from the church because you really cannot say you love God and yet hate your own family that belong to God. In one sense, each of us are called to be the church, representing Christ-likeness to our neighbors. In another sense, each of us are called to be brothers and sisters who make up a family that represents Christ. In all senses, we are called to love the world as Christ would, even in our imperfection, which is being sanctified until the return of Christ.

With this understanding of church from the Bible, let us talk about our Chin churches. We see churches splitting here and there, and even with our parents trying their best, their best is not enough because of sins, and we see a lot of damages. Power and pride have taken over every corner of the church so that it has been hard for each person grow in their faith or to have faith in the work that God is doing through the church. God as the origin and basis of the church has been forgotten, and most often the imagery of the church has been tainted. It is weird to write these things down and it seems like I am belittling of our Chin churches, but it is the truth that we can all see. Well, that is what we see now, but where will it lead us to? Will this continue or will there be changes?

Maybe the better question is: which role will you be a part of? Will you sit back, relax and watch the church burn to the ground? Will you let moments pass by as if this is not related to you? Will you proudly wear those beautiful Lai dresses and coats while being ashamed to be a part of the community? Will you assume over and over again that it is just ‘a Lai church thing’ and that it is normal? Will you run away from the burning fire and glad that you are safe while everyone else suffers? Will you play the blame game? Will you be playing the victim role rather than acting as the solution?

As the young adults, I want us to own up to your fathers’ iniquity and also to our own. Yes, our leaders have done wrong to the church and there has been a lot of injustice and segregation. Are we going to blame them for it all and count their sins towards us? Absolutely not! We will be held accountable for their sins when we are before the Lord God Almighty. It is easy to say we are the way we are now because of them and that it is all their faults. It is easy to let things continue as if we have no roles to play and as if we have anything to do with it How about these little youngins growing in the church and doing whatever they want? Are we going to watch their lives destroyed just because they grow up being neglected by their hard-working parents? No! They are our brothers and sisters, and we are accountable for their blood. As hard as it is, maybe the Cross for our 1.5 generation is to carry the sins of our fathers and of our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us look into generational sins as it is written in the Bible.

How do our fathers’ sins affect our generation and what is our responsibility? This is an excerpt from Pastor John Piper because I think he captured the essence of generational sin.

“Does God visit the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation? Some texts seem to say he does and others seem to say he doesn’t. Our job is to figure out the sense in which he does and the sense in which he doesn’t.

On the one hand it seems as if he does:

The Lord…visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7 = Deuteronomy 5:8-10)

“Because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.” (Leviticus 26:39)

On the other hand it seems that he doesn’t:

Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers.” (Deuteronomy 24:16[Amaziah] did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the Lord commanded, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.” (2 Kings 14:6)

The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. (Ezekiel 18:20, cf. Jeremiah 31:30)

How do these passages fit together? This matters for the sake of God’s character, and the Bible’s coherence, and how we counsel those whose parents were wicked or just garden variety sinful.Here are my two conclusions that helps me put them together:

1. The sins of the fathers are punished in the children through becoming the sins of the children.

I the Lord…visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5; cf. Numbers 14:18)

The generations to come who experience the penalty of the fathers’ sins are those who hate God. We are not told how the fathers’ sins become the children’s sins. But what we are told is that when the father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children are really sinful. That is the form in which the fathers’ sins are visited. Therefore, all judgment is really deserved by the person who is punished.

2. Because of God’s grace, which is finally secured by Christ, the children can confess their own sins and the sins of their fathers and be forgiven and accepted by God.

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers…if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob” (Leviticus 26:40-42).

The precious words of Exodus 34:6-7 are not nullified by the generational migration of sin.
The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

There are three things we could do here.

1. We can repent and cut off the generational sins from passing down– meaning, we do not have to be like our fathers. We do not let it influence us or get inside our hearts. I think generational sins pass down easier than anything else because children see firsthand the actions of their parents and consciously and subconsciously follow them. To quote a proverb: monkey see, monkey do. It does not have to be that way. We have a merciful God who wants to save the generations for himself. The next generation does not get punished for what the previous generation did, but the next generation will get its punishment if it follows the previous generation’s sins. Can we join each other to repent for the sins of our fathers of and our generation? To give them credit, they did whatever they could to provide for the family. We should be thankful for all the sacrifices. Our parents are no perfect beings, they do what they can with whatever practices they know back home and try to establish these imperfect churches as they could. I am not saying that the wrongs that they have done are okay, but that we should not condemn them for everything. The good news is that we can repent for them, pray for them and help them even if they don’t see the need for all that. When people turn their faces to the Lord and repent for their sins and for the sins of their people, God hears, forgives and leads them into righteousness. God in his mercy has given us the opportunity to be the ones interceding for our forefathers. By doing so, we cut off the sins to be transmitted and the vaccines of grace will cure the disease of cancerous generational tumors. How amazing is that?

2. We need to make changes in ourselves. The problem with the youth is that no one actually wants to do something. We are so used to doing only what we are told to do. No one is there to take the initiative and no one is there to do something new. Of course, this is also a part of our culture (and Confucian influence) where the young ones should be silent and should not talk until they are being spoken to or until they have become parents themselves. Well, maybe it is time to break the chain. But we have to do it in a very gentle and honorable way. After all, it is in the Ten Commandments that we should honor our parents. However, honoring does not mean submitting to them blindly, but by in a gentle way showing them to the truth. How can you honor someone the best? How does Jesus honor his heavenly Father? What does the Bible talk about honoring each other? I think it has a lot of implications upon truth and love. This is the tricky part; how can you show truth without making them think that you are being disrespectful? Our parents have been oppressed from the Burmese government, and here at their various workplaces, and it is one more to get disrespected by their own children. We have to take extreme cautions. 1 Timothy 4:12 speaks to us loudly in this matter. Timothy was just a young man leading a congregation full of adults who are much older and wiser than him – but still not a perfect church. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” The Apostle Paul is not commanding the young pastor Timothy to do this because it is an extra thing or it is a side thing. He is commanding him because setting an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity is essential for him to work among these people. It is basically saying, you cannot win over them unless you can set an example in these areas. Likewise, you are not going to make the change without being pure and not having love – or more importantly faith. As we will show the changes in these areas, trust me, we will win over the hearts of many people. Will that be easy? Absolutely not! But this is what God has called us to do when we accepted Christ as Lord and these are the fruits of the Spirit, really. It is funny to see some of us wanting to make changes in our community and churches without having those fruits in our lives. We often set ourselves for failures. If you are so adamant about making changes in our churches, make sure to let God make changes in your life. Let the work of the Holy Spirit overflow from you.

3. More than just cutting off the sins, we need to start a new culture and a new trend, where Christ is honored and glorified with all our hearts and minds. Regardless of where we are, we are always making a culture. In the U.S., we as Chin people are creating a culture a bit different than the ones that we had in the Chin state, yet it is still a culture, Americanized Chin culture. The “hardworking I am too busy for church” is a culture. The “if your church minos are good then they must be good at choirs and sports” is a culture. The “if you are a regular attendee to the church and are old enough, then you shall be an elder” is a culture. The “if you are still single then we may order you a wife” is a culture. The invisible rule of “youth and women may not talk so much during the meeting” is a culture. Those are neither American culture on its own nor Chin culture on its own, but it mashes them up as we go.  In my Developing Asian American Ministry class, the professor Dr. Cha talked about the term “traditioned innovation”, and I was intrigue. We have to be innovative but we cannot forget the tradition because the tradition is there to guide us. We cannot be all about traditions, but we also have to be innovated also because things need to be exciting and alive. Those two need to go together. We cannot be completely cut off from the tradition because more than we like to admit, our traditions and cultures define us who we are. But does it mean we always have to be bound up to the tradition? Maybe, but not in this country. But will our parents going to know how to innovate the cultures? I highly doubt that because if you don’t grow up here going to high school or college, you have a hard time completely understanding the culture we are facing here. Who is going to do that then? It will be you! Our cultures/traditions of how we perceive women, children, church leadership, cultural engagement and social justice are already here — what are you going to do about it? I see some intelligent people and well-educated people leaving the Chin church (even faith in Christ), and nothing hurts me more than that. Please, your church needs you even if it has hurt you in the past or present, it is as broken as you will ever be. Will you be that salt and light? We have to be very intentional in every proposal that we make to our community and every idea that we suggest to them. There are no right ways of doing them, but there is always a better way to do them.
But then as Colossians 3:22-23 suggests, let us not do it for the sake of our parents as if we owe them (although we owe a lot to them), but let us do it for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we owe our everything. It will just be another mistake if we are going to fix all these for Lairam, and the outcomes will be as ugly as it can ever be. It shall be all for Van-ram and in whichever way the Chief Shepherd, Christ, has called us to do so. That is the mindset that we need to have as we build up the community. It may take a lifetime without fruits, but we also have to recognize that our treasures are stored up in heaven. Patience is a virtue and it is also the key. I cannot believe I have screamed at my parents and spoken to the elders with hash tones. Since we are young, we can be so short-sighted most of the times. We need to learn to see the bigger pictures instead of fixating to one program or one event. Humility is another key also. Christ died on the Cross, not considering himself higher than his heavenly Father (Phil 2:8), and that must be our mentality. Christ humbled himself not because worldly glory or to save himself. He humbled himself to give us salvation and to receive the glory from God the Father. We do not merely submit or humble so that people may exalt us but because we know that it pleases the Lord and we have the unfading crown of righteousness waiting for us when Christ reveals himself in glory. Obviously, Christ’s humility is in direct connection with his love for the sinners and for the Father. Love is where everything flows from.

Laimi tho cang uh sih. Kan ih le kan um sawh sawh nak a sau tuk cang. Nangmah ca asi lo hmanh ah a ra ding mi kan nau le caah cun kan tuan a hau cang.

Laimi kan si mi hi Pathian ka thangthat ko. Natein, mah lawng in a dih kho lo. A dawtmi a khrihfabu caah kan nun pek in Bawipa cu a thangthat awk kan si.

As someone who has been in your shoes, I can understand your pains and sufferings that might have been caused by the community and the church. I would not have come back to this place without God calling me and drawing me back in because the harvest is plentiful and the actual workers are few, and there is some urgency here. Maybe some of us needs some time to be healed first. Maybe some of us need to understand the purpose of the church better. Maybe some of us need to get out of our comfort (being with other races) and need to get uncomfortable (being invested with Lai community) again for the sake of the Gospel. Let us own up to generational sins. Let us pray in repentance and fervently seek the Lord for His guidance to His people (Side note: I was praying for this while running this morning, and I was just so excited to see God’s works among us).
Generational sins are more dangerous than Ebola or cancers that can only kill the body. Our cells will die and our bones will dry, but let our souls thrive.

Let us be the voice for the newer generation and the vision for the older generation!

(Thanks Biakku and Glote for editing and giving me ideas.) If anyone wants to help out with writing vanarfibanginceu posts, please let me know.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Sang Bawi March 9, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    What a graeat masterpiece!! One of the best encouraging articles I’ve ever read. Thank you so much. May the God you served bless you richly.

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