Knock! Knock! Knock!
“I’m coming!” I quickly grabbed the kettle out of the kitchen and brought it into the living room, setting it on the coffee table. Scanning the table, everything seemed to be in place.
Heading over to get the door, I said a quick prayer asking the Lord to bless the conversation that evening. After all, I had finally succeeded in making friends with Chinese believers outside of church. I had those that I would say hello to at church. But these last couple of weeks were the only times I had really had opportunity to interact with Chinese believers that spoke no English as friends for the first time.
I was almost shaking with excitement as I opened the door.
“Hi! You came!” I exclaimed, following typical Chinese protocol by stating the obvious. “Please, come in.”
I had met these two friends and a few others through Rabbit and his wife a few weeks ago in a Sichuan restaurant. Since then we had had a few more meals together, and these two had asked if I would mind them coming to my place sometime to study the Bible.
Before coming to China, I always thought the story of Zacchaeus found in the Gospel of Luke to be a bit strange in that Jesus actually invited himself to go to the short man’s house. I could never figure out why Jesus would do something that seemed so forthright. Why would Jesus be so rude? But living a couple of years in China made me realize that in some cultures, inviting yourself to someone’s house when you want to get to know them is considered honoring them.
Just like Jesus wanted to honor Zacchaeus, so these two friends wanted to honor me by coming to my home.
“Should we take off our shoes?” asked one, stepping through the door and noticing my shoe rack by the couch.
“No, you don’t have to. As an American, I don’t mind. Sit, sit, sit,” I said following another Chinese idiosyncrasy that involves repeating requests to express sincerity. “I’ll make tea.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that!”
I ignored their niceties and fired up the electric kettle anyway.
“These fruits are for you. Here you go,” said the second friend, handing me a bag with a bunch of grapes and some dragon fruits.
“Thanks, thanks, thanks,” I said with a smile.
Steeping and then pouring the tea into the little porcelain cups, our conversation began to move past formalities and toward our faith.
Finally, I had an opportunity to fellowship with two Chinese believers in an informal setting. My excitement continued to grow as I began.
“So, tell me, XiaoHong, how did you come to know the Lord?”
“A friend shared the gospel with me a few years ago.” Grabbing her Bible, she flipped it open to a passage of Scripture and asked me to read it out loud.
Odd, I thought.
Not only was that about the shortest testimony I had ever heard, I found it strange that I was being asked to read a verse of Scripture when I felt we had only just started our conversation.
Maybe the verse relates to her testimony?
Curious and a bit confused, I looked down to where her finger was pointing and the verse had nothing to do with a testimony – at least as far as I could tell.
The verse was Isaiah 42:14: I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.
I scanned the verse, and looked up at XiaoHong in confusion.
“Read it aloud,” she repeated.
“I just read it. Why are you showing me this verse?”
“Read it aloud, please.”
“Ok…” This was getting a bit strange, but I thought I’d do what she said and see where the conversation went.
After I read the verse aloud, XiaoHong was sure to point out that the verse was in reference to God. Without giving me time to check the context and see whether or not it was in fact in reference to God, she quickly flipped to another passage of Scripture, pointed to a verse and asked me to read it.
Hesitating, I looked up at XiaoZhang, who was quietly watching on. He nodded toward the open Bible to indicate that I should do as XiaoHong said.
I glanced back down and saw her finger pointing to Luke 13:34. Deciding to play along a bit longer to see where things were going, I began, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”
Strange. What is going on?
Something was up, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. We had agreed to have a time of fellowship, and I had assumed it would be a time to sip tea, share testimonies, and maybe choose a passage of Scripture to read and discuss. Could it be that all Chinese believers are this strange?
Of course not! Tam and the others at my church had never been like this.
And what was the purpose of these verses? Why were they showing them to me? What was the point XiaoHong and XiaoZhang were wanting to get across?
Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind.
This is kind of “pointing and reading” is really only used, at least as far as I knew, when someone wants to share the gospel with someone else. This is a door-knocking technique!
But why were they here, at my apartment, pointing at verses and asking me to read? After all, Rabbit introducing me to them a couple of weeks back was all based on the fact that I was a Christian. Was there some mistake?
Puzzled, I continued and read the next verse, and the next. Perhaps the oddest thing about the whole situation was that every verse had seemingly little relation to showing someone how to get saved.
Gears turning, I was puzzling over what each of these verses had to do with one another. Then it hit me.
Every verse they took me to had one thing in common: when taken out of context, they could be twisted to indicate that God the Father and Jesus are female.
The travailing woman in Isaiah. The hen in Luke. The mother weaning her child in Psalm 131.
Just as everything clicked, I looked back down and noticed that XiaoZhang had tried to pull a fast one on me. The Bible that had been in XiaoHong’s hand was laying on my couch and some new book with a brown paper bag functioning as a book cover to hide it’s exterior was now open in front of me.
Studying the book, first without touching it, I couldn’t notice any immediate difference between it and the Chinese Bible. The layout was the same – double columned, chapter references, and verse references. Looking at the upper left-hand corner of the page, however, I didn’t recognize the book of the Bible that was indicated.
XiaoHong looked at me with a smirk and pointing to a verse reference in this new mystery book said, “Now read this aloud.”
To be continued…
This is part three in a series of posts about Eastern Lightning, also known as The Church of the Almighty God, which is a cult in China that stands in opposition to true believers there.