Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Five Responses to Consider (CHC Arrests)

City Harvest Church, Singapore (Credit: Asiaone)
The big news in Singapore is the arrest of key leaders, including Kong Hee, the founder of City Harvest Church, a Singapore Megachurch established in 1989. They have been charged with financial mismanagement and fraud. Arguably the single largest church in Singapore, it boasts an attendance of more than 23000 people weekly. I have attended the church meetings before, and am amazed at the vibrancy of the people, but also the huge proportion of young people. If you are to do a search on Twitter or Google, it is common to see CHC supporters expressing wholehearted allegiance to the leadership and the Church. These are the die-hard supporters. Some may even behave as if the church has been persecuted.

On the other hand, many others in the public have thrown in heaps of sarcasm and cynicism on the Church. One popular blogger, XiaXue feels "disgusted" about the "amount of deluded people praying for Kong Hee." Anger and disgust appear to be the general sentiment of the day among those outside the Church.

My blogger friend, currently based in Singapore has kindly reproduced his professor, Dr Daniel Koh's prompt response for the Christian community to consider. In a nutshell, the writer urges restraint for both groups of people mentioned above. To the first group who are pro-supporters, he suggests refraining from blind faith. To the second group who are aggressively condemning the leaders, the CHC members, he recommends suspending judgment to let justice flows its natural course. He then points all to learn to pray for all parties affected or involved in the whole process.

Like Dr Koh, I am similarly concerned for many of the younger believers in City Harvest Church. There will be repercussions. There will be a general mood of despondency among many. There will also be additional salt added to the wounds by insensitive people who behave as if they themselves are on a higher moral ground to judge.

While it is important to remember that one is innocent until proven guilty, it is fair to say that something has gone horribly wrong in the financial aspect of the Church. Whether we fault the person or persons, the organization or its poor financial transparency, or the overall investigative process, I want to focus on the assumption that the worst case is true, that the 5 leaders arrested are guilty as charged. The difference is in terms of the extent to which the charges are true. Having done that, I will suggest some way forward for any genuinely concerned or interested member of the Christian community. I will base my meditation on how King David was found out in his adultery and murder, and how he coped with it. It is important to note that while the crimes committed are different, there are teaching moments about how to cope.

Remember, the following is based on an ASSUMPTION that the charges are true. I make no final judgment on the arrests, but merely want to pose responses based on this position.

1) Call a Spade a Spade

First, the prophet Nathan helped to open the eyes of King David to his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-12). Instead of fighting back, see how David responded.

"Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.'" (2 Samuel 12:13a)

David recognized his sin. Instead of hiding, he admitted it. Even the smallest sin is still a sin. The Bible says that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Before a Holy God, the smallest speck of sin is still sin. For those of us who argue that small sins are nothing compared to big sins, they have totally missed the significance of purity and holiness. Call a spade a spade, and stop any devilish forces from tempting us toward self-deception.

2) Suspend Judgment

I agree with Dr Daniel Koh that until investigations are complete and the courts have determined the results, we ought to suspend judgment with regards to the case. This means both ways. The pro-supporters need to suspend judgment about how "right" or how "innocent" their leaders are. It is one thing to support leaders. It is yet another to apply blind faith. The vociferous accusers and sarcastic corners of the public will also need to suspend their judgment, lest they themselves are guilty of casting the first stone. Look at Nathan's reply.

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die." (2 Samuel 12:13b)
If there is any judgment to be made, it is definitely not us distant observers. The responsibility and the ultimate Judge is God.

3) Truth Must Be Told

Whenever we read news from the media, we cannot base our entire opinion on one single piece of news. For that matter, there are also multiple news outlets, social media, and foreign reporting as well. Which do we believe? Who is speaking the truth? Remember that every piece of news material is biased to some degree. Even if we can gather all the available news material, it is still second-hand news.
  • Have we seen the evidence first hand?
  • Have we heard the confessions of the five leaders charged?
  • Have we understood and analyzed the information gathered from the investigators?
  • Have we any privy knowledge of what is actually happening, the background etc?
Truth must be told. Yet, it is not easy to get at truth. This is why we will need to be open and let any opinion or mini-conclusion be always a qualified one. See the judgment of God meted out, and see how truth is matched by action.

"But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” (2 Samuel 12:14)

God is honoured when truth is revealed. Granted that David's admission of guilt has brought along harsh punishment, the important thing is when truth is revealed, the path to righteousness is lighted up. However, before that can happen, punishment needs to take its course. The painful one is the death of David's firstborn son.

4) Learn From Mistakes

David's remorse is evident from the Psalms he writes, especially in Psalm 51:1-2. The admission of guilt and the plea for mercy is nothing less than amazing. It is not justifying one's deeds, but seeking God's mercy. Unreservedly and totally.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

While this is the response of David, the rest of us need to learn how to pray as well. The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is an appropriate lesson for us to learn.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
(Luke 18:9-13)
Those of us looking in from outside, are we to behave like the Pharisee, or to seek mercy like the tax collector. This is perhaps the key response tip for all of us. The CHC arrests need to make us look to behave more like the tax collector, that we recognize our own sin and weaknesses. That we do not put ourselves higher than the people at CHC. At the same time, we need to warn ourselves against any acts of self-righteousness like the Pharisee. For instance, not being arrested like the five men, does not mean we can tell everyone,

"Thank God I am not like them!"

God forbid! We are sinners and all of us are capable of doing the wrongs that have been charged. No one is immune from wrongdoing. We need mercy. We need grace. In the same way, we need to show mercy and grace to others.

5) The Gospel Must Still Be Preached - Start CLEAN

Finally, I want to acknowledge that the reputation of CHC and even for the Church at large will be negatively affected, at least for a while. We cannot run away from it. We can only pray, seek forgiveness, learn, and do our best to be competent and ethical in what we do. No one is immune from sin but everyone is capable of honouring God with doing the right thing. Let me suggest five things.

First, Comfort One Another. See how David goes to comfort his distraught wife, Bathsheba. Even though they have committed adultery, they are still people who need love and comfort. As a Christian community, we can comfort one another by praying, and by seeking to do all the good we can, in spite of all the bad that we are hearing.

Second, be always Learning. What has happened to CHC does not mean it will not happen to any other churches.

Third, Encourage one another to improve our own systems of governance. If there are weaknesses, do our best to implement checks and balances. If there are any wrongdoing by anyone, stop. Repent. Correct.

Four, Accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Family members do not disown one another simply because one has committed a crime. A family is a family. We rejoice together, we grieve together, we serve together. Like Jesus said, the world will know we are His disciples through our love for one another.

Five, Need for God. May this be a time for which all Christians will turn to God in a more intensive way. We tell others that they need God, now is a time for us to demonstrate with our own lives that we ourselves need God.

Be comforting, be learning, be encouraging, be accepting, and be needful of God. Together, they form the acronym CLEAN. Through CLEAN, may the gospel be preached with our lives that are filled with grace toward one another.

Praying for mercy beginning with myself.

Conrade Yap (Dr)


Wong SH said...

Thank you for the insightful and helpful points!

Conrade Yap, (Dr) said...

@Wong SH,
Thank you for your kind comment.


Anonymous said...

Dr Yap,

Thank so much for a well balanced and written post! Especially the responses a Christian should learn and take away from a biblical pov!


Anonymous said...

It's hard to find a neutral post such as yours in these three days, thank you for sharing this :)

Gintai_昇泰 said...

Correct way to see things in perspective. Let there be calm.

Conrade Yap, (Dr) said...

@Ron and @Anonymous (4:11AM), @Gintai,

I appreciate your kind comments.


sky said...

Agree. Neither blind faith, nor judgmental.

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