Recently, I joined a group from the American Malaysian Club and toured both old and new Chinese cemeteries as part of Ching Ming or All Souls Day. It's always so interesting to learn about another culture and their beliefs and traditions. In this blog, rather than post pictures of the trip, I'd like to share some thoughts I've been pondering about the experience and about other recent experiences too. (I promise to post pictures soon!)
Our tour guide, a lovely Chinese lady, explained that Chinese people, including herself, believe in ancestral worship and life after death, but what really got my attention was when she shared that the rituals that must take place upon the death of a loved one and every year after that are so complicated that today many Chinese convert their family members to Christianity on their death beds in order to avoid having to carry out the expected traditions. Over and over throughout the tour, she repeated that it was just so much simpler to be a Christian and it's that thought that has prompted me to share.
I couldn't agree with her more. Christianity is simple. It's so simple that it can be summed up in one word. Love... One verse. John 3:16. God wants the whole world to know him and to spend eternity with him. Why is simple so hard to accept in life, not just death?
Another example of the simplicity of Christianity is how it compares to Hinduism. The Hindu temple we visited this past weekend at Batu Cave was full of representations of different gods and specialized priests that served these gods. Our driver explained how that different gods handled different problems...sickness, money, children. Some prayer requests even had to be taken to priests in India for answers. I'm sure I don't understand it all, but what I do understand is that I worship one God, and that my God is more than able to handle anything anyone brings to him in prayer. In fact, my God knows the prayers of anyone who calls him Father before they pray...he knows what can't even be put into words. This is the God I've put my faith in.
One more "simple" thought I'd like to share is that in Christ, one is free... something that I've learned that not all religions share. Living in an Islamic country for the past few months has taught me that for a majority of Malaysians, religious laws govern things like what they wear, what they eat and drink, and when and where they pray...all things that I'm, as a Christian, simply free to choose for myself. In fact, the laws of the country even govern how non Muslims live out their religious beliefs. Christians and members of other religions in Malaysia are able to meet together and worship, but they are prohibited from sharing their faith with Muslims.
In closing, I can't help but wonder if the simple truth of Christianity is what might make it hard for people.... something so easy (I'm mindful that it was anything but easy for God as he sacrificed his son)... so easy to ignore or put off. Maybe John 3:16 is just too good to be true or too simple for people who want their own works and effort to pave their way into whatever they believe comes after this life. Simple thoughts, I know, but I felt compelled to jot them down.