The Testimony of "God with Us"
Rev Dr Stephen Lee
Lam Ko Kit Tak Professor of Biblical Studies
Last year September 29, Monday, was a hot day. During the turbulent times of our city, the faculty’s monthly meeting was cancelled and replaced by a special prayer meeting. I left early during the prayer meeting to fly to Taipei to lead a 3-day Bible conference there. I had never left Hong Kong with such a heavy heart.
During the Sunday worship the day before, I prayed for Hong Kong with the congregation before my sermon, and I believed that all the churches in Hong Kong would be doing the same: we prayed fervently before the throne of grace of our Lord for peace for our government and for our city. Who would have known that before midnight the same day, 87 tear gas grenades would have been fired. It would be hard to imagine from the headline photos that the mass rallies did not break a single pane of glass nor hit even one police car. It was even harder to imagine the police, all dressed in anti-riot gears behind mills barrier, using water to help a man clean off pepper-spray from his eyes. The gracious hands of our Lord have always been with Hong Kong.
In the dispute regarding universal suffrage, the three Occupy Central leaders include a pastor and a layman, the “Constitutional Development Trio” also include a brother in Christ. Prayer meetings were held amongst government officials while student groups also had support from churches. Pastors and councillors taking pro-government and pro-democracy stands could still go to the Lord in prayers together after stating their different views. When different groups confronted each other during the street protests, there were Christians on both sides. Members of the Enoch Christian Fellowship could be found among members of the disciplinary force forming human chains. Churches are not political groups holding similar views but have to serve people stretching across a wide political spectrum. Despite of holding different political views amongst our congregation, they all care about our society because we all love Hong Kong, we all love this place that we call home.
The Lausanne Covenant in 1974 reminds evangelical churches that the gospel treats evangelism and social responsibility as equally important. In the past 40 years, churches in Hong Kong have dedicated themselves to evangelism within Hong Kong and overseas, and participated in helping the poor and the building up of social communities from China to the end of the world, revealing fully the grace of God. The cries of young leaders in the past have been passed on. Christians of the next generation face more complicated socio-political agendas. Although they may not outshine their older generation, they definitely need understanding and acceptance rather than mutual blaming and black mouthing. The democratic spirit rejects the “winner takes all” concept. Respecting and accepting different viewpoints are not only the basic attribute of a civil society, but also the theological emphasis of the apostolic letters in the New Testament. “Asking, praying, petitioning and thanksgiving” for our rulers and “to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” are both the rights and duties of Christians who live out their faith.
When the leaders of the CGST Student Association responded to the many appeals and requests, they not only encouraged the students to think and judge independently, but also to listen carefully to the widely different stands and viewpoints expressed. This has revealed sincere and liberal magnanimity which earn the praise and appreciation of the teachers. What has touched me even more is the unhesitant, quiet giving of the CGST students and alumni, not for the ideology but for protecting the young people they are serving, walking together and supporting them along an unknown path. You have not made any loud noise nor shouted. In this frightened and injured city, you have become a mark and testimony of “God with Us”, “Immanuel”.