Several weeks ago, providentially while going to church, I think it was, I ended up standing near a couple whose young son, perhaps about 4 years of age, was sitting next to an older gentleman. During the course of the subway ride, the lad’s animated conversation with the older man caught the attention of a number of people on the subway. Moreover, the boy’s interaction with is parents also proved to be delightful and worthy of an audience.
What struck me, though, is that at one point the older man, perhaps the grandfather? I really don’t know, took out a Bible and began to teach, instruct and guide the boy through various passages. He did this very quietly and with no fanfare, but also perfectly out in the open, with not a hint of self consciousness. It was like breathing.
The boy himself seemed absolutely at home with all this. He listened intently and then added comments which made the older gentleman smile and his parents look perfectly content. Additionally, other passengers on the subway within earshot began to pay attention, some close attention. One of the things I have found here in China is that the people are not at all anti or antagonistic toward religion, be it Christianity or other expressions of faith. What seems to be the case, rather, is that faith, certainly not of the religious variety, is a category at all. It’s not a part of a person’s living, moving and having being. For this reason, discussions of faith often result in real if perplexed interest, kind of “What is this thing that has come to pass?” Certainly at the church where I attend, which is kind of the cathedral to central Beijing, the curious and the passers by are forever wandering in. Some stay, some look around and depart. I like to think that they are all, in some way, touched by grace.
At one point the parents of the boy along with the boy got off the subway at the same stop I did. The older gentleman stayed and continued on.
I believe it is Isaiah who speaks of God’s word going forth and not returning without fulfilling its purpose. So it does.