A bigger world than your screen

When I was in College, I spend my weekends tutoring Cambodian refugees/immigrants in Lowell Massachusetts. (It was the 1990s) Once the teachers asked a Cambodian teenager who he admired the most, I was surprised by his answer: “President Jimmy Carter”. When Carter was president, this teenager was too young to have any meaningful understanding of who Carter was. He then explained, “President Carter allowed my family to come to America.”

Allowing families from suffering parts of the world to come to America is a life changing humanitarian gesture that this nation is well known for. Immigrants are in general thankful. In this tradition, President Biden announced his plan for allowing (illegal) immigrants a path to citizenship over 8 years as a reversal of President Trump’s “anti-immigrant” policies.

As an immigrant myself, and having served among Cambodian immigrants, international students, Chinese immigrants, and inside Honduras, I believe I can give a more diverse point of view than a typical American Christian. I would like my Christian friends to lend theirs ears to a few of my stories.

There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Roughly 1 million of them came from Honduras. Much of the discussion surround what happens at the US southern border. However, if you think that the problem begins at the southern border, you are hundreds of miles away from the root cause.

Honduras has a population of 9.7 million on paper, 1 million of whom are in the US. Any country losing 10% of its population, especially 10% of their most educated workforce, will quickly descend into chaos. Here is a true story: in a Honduras public school, there was a teacher who was drawing a salary for many years. But he never showed up in the classroom. His students never received the education they deserve. Eventually when the school was audited, they discovered the teacher driving a cab in Manhattan.

The mission organization that I serve runs a children center in southern (rural) part of Honduras. This is the picture in a typical Honduran village: there are no capable men. In the village, there are only women, old men, and children, lots of children. One of the churches I visited in a village of 200 population have 1 elderly man in his 70s as the pastor. 10 women as Sunday school teachers, and 80 children most of them younger than 10.

Average age of first pregnancy for a girl in rural Honduras is 14. Migrant workers come through the village during rainy season to work on farms, they get the local girls pregnant. They left for the cities once the farming season is over to look for jobs. So the poor girls are left behind with the children. The cycle repeats itself year after year, a girl may have 5 or 6 children, each of them by a different father, and none of the fathers stay to care for them.

Once they are in the cities, the men’s next stop would be heading to the US. Especially those who have the means to do so. Sometime the ticket to go the the US is the ability to speak English, but often it is through the drug trade that they punch their ticket north. Capable men run away from the country, the rest of the country, including the abandoned mothers and their children, are left behind in poverty.

The US immigration policy is spawning a humanitarian downward spiral. People migrate from Honduras to the US because the economy is bad. Those who are capable left, leaving the less capable behind. Economy get worse, more people want to leave.

Don’t forget the elephant in the room: DRUGS. The drug trade through the southern border destroys lives and family. The migration pattern and the drug trade are closely related and promote each other.

On to discussing another group of people whom I serve: Chinese immigrants. There are two groups of Chinese immigrants: professionals and grass-root workers. They practically live in two separate worlds, their paths seldom cross except for the former being served by the latter while eating or shopping at Chinatown.

Chinese professionals are concerned with limits in H-1B visas which they are competing over a limited quota against Indian and European professionals. Latin American immigrants at are not likely to be competing with Chinese professionals in terms of visa or jobs. However, since the total quota of immigrants per year is not likely to increase, allowing Latin American immigrants to get citizenship is going to make our H-1B professionals wait longer to get their green card/citizenship. My software engineer friend from India jokes that, at the current rate, he will become a US citizen when he turns 103.

Chinese immigrants who are grass-root workers faces direct competition for the limited government resources with Latin American immigrants. Affordable housing being the most critical. They also compete for low skilled jobs. In a time of economic boom, jobs are easier to find. In the current COVID climate, such competitions are less than friendly. I had a very well meaning coworker, a well-educated suburban professional, who was very surprised when I describe to her that the urban Chinese church that I served did not welcome the “immigrant friendly policies” of the Obama administration. After hearing my explanation, she just went, “Oh well, that make sense.”

At this point, you may ask “so what is your point, Kai?”. My point is, there are many many points instead of just “a point”. Americans are brainwashed to reduce every issue to one point – who should I vote for?

Ignorance is the worst form of discrimination. For anyone living in any urban centers in the USA, we have no excuse to not get to know the stories and the struggles of immigrants. We are practically next door neighbors (in my case, I literally have an immigrant family as my next door neighbor.) For most Americans, we intentionally decide to not care about our next door neighbors. Instead we prefer to pretend to care by keeping them as images on our screens.

The point I want to make is probably best told by a very well known story:

A scholar tried to trap Jesus.

Scholar: Teacher, what must I do to experience the eternal life?

Jesus (answering with a question):What is written in the Scriptures? How do you interpret their answer to your question?

Scholar:You shall love—“love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind”—and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus:Perfect. Your answer is correct. Follow these commands and you will live.

The scholar was frustrated by this response because he was hoping to make himself appear smarter than Jesus.

Scholar: Ah, but who is my neighbor?

Jesus: This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance. Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him. The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.

The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.”

Which of these three proved himself a neighbor to the man who had been mugged by the robbers?

Scholar: 37 The one who showed mercy to him.

Jesus: Well then, go and behave like that Samaritan.

(from the Voice translation of the Bible)

Immigrants are our neighbors. Go and behave like that Samaritan.


Love your neighbors instead of vote for your neighbors

With the election on the horizon, both sides want to convince us that if we vote for the “wrong candidate”, civilization as we know it will end. The truth is nothing much will change.

Regardless of who wins the election, the rich will become richer and the poor poorer.

Regardless of who wins the election, hundreds of thousand of unborn children will be aborted and discarded.

Regardless of who wins the election, tens of thousands of young girls and thousands of boys will be trafficked for sex.

Regardless of who wins the election, drug dealers will be killing their competitors with guns and their customers with fentanyl on the streets of America

Regardless of who wins the election, black high school students will score much much lower than their white and asian classmates in their AP exams.

Regardless of who wins the election, Americans will continue to be fat and stupid.

Civilization as we know it will end. But it will end not because we voted for the wrong candidate. It will end because it deserves to be ended.

Civilization as we know it will end not because we choose the wrong political party but because we choose the wrong God.

We choose to wake up starting our days with our cell phone instead of starting with the Word of God.

We choose to repeat fake news on social media instead of repeat “I love you” to our spouses.

We choose to believe that standing in line at the polls will change the world, but kneeling down in prayer is only a personal matter.

Don’t get me wrong. Democracy is a good thing. It might be the best human invention. But the best human invention will not change the human condition. Only divine intervention is capable of changing our sinful nature. We have made democracy our god and the ballot our idol.

Our Lord tells us to “love our neighbors”, not to “vote for someone else to take care of our neighbors”.

疫症的啟示 – 除掉教堂的偶像




由1984 年中英聯合聲明簽署到1989 民運,當年教會面對前途不明的對策就是集中訓練門徒。假如有一天教會要轉入地下工作,就要有大量可以獨立運作,懂得在家中開查經班,熱心傳福音的平信徒領袖。

97 之後,預期的逼迫沒有出現。華人教會有一段平靜的日子可以增長。昔日的危機感慢慢被放下了,取而代之的是從北美和韓國帶回來 megachurch movement。教會的焦點從訓練平信徒領袖轉到大型的崇拜、音樂侍奉、有吸引力的出名牧師、出名講員。我們聚會唱歌,一開口就是「這天同聚於主聖殿」。殊不知,信徒的身體才是真正新約的聖殿 (林前6:19)。當教會把大量的資源投放在硬體的教堂中,教堂就成了我們的偶像。






Image credit: https://www.voachinese.com/a/news-henan-authorities-demolish-church-crosses-20180828/4547179.html

地理上相近,信仰卻很遠 – 怎樣的基督徒才有資格談論中立?

最近一位大型教會的著名牧師著文曰: 「教會是政治中立的屬靈群體

(原文見: https://www.npac.org.hk/home/main_contents.php?name=%E7%89%A7%E8%80%85%E5%BF%83%E8%81%B2&fbclid=IwAR02YcL4nT2iSxzUBEMHjkQhOb_hfgkW2-CkYTrztJNYoBPpAbIM0su3Xek


蕭牧師的教會在北角炮台山。同樣的在港島的東區,有另一位全香港聞名的牧師:來自柴灣的朱耀明牧師。以下是朱牧的「敲鐘者言」全文連結: https://www.rfa.org/cantonese/HK-Letter-04222019154851.html?encoding=traditional








馬太福音 5:9






近日遇見我一位亦師亦友的前輩,他跟我說:「我有看你在 Facebook 上的言論,老實說大部份的時候我都同意你的論點,但我不可能回應,也不可以按讚。」我說:「完全明白!我其實很慶幸自己這段時間沒有牧會。要是有責任在身我也不可能暢所欲言。」




我們也要諒解的是教會面對急劇的政治變化其實和其他人和機構一樣是無所適從。我自己讀神學院的時候,是沒有政治神學這一門課的,比較接近的是社會公義的課,那是宣教學的選修課 ,也就是說其實大部份的傳道人對政治是欠缺深入的認識。



你在甚麼事上論斷人,就在甚麼事上定自己的罪;因你這論斷人的,自己所行卻和別人一樣­。」(羅馬書 2章1節)



倘若你的弟兄得罪你,你就去,趁著只有他和你在一處的時候,指出他的錯來。他若聽你,你便得了你的弟兄。 他若不聽,你就另外帶一兩個人同去,要憑兩三個人的口作見證,句句都可定準。 若是不聽他們,就告訴教會。若是不聽教會,就看他像外邦人和稅吏一樣。

馬太福音 18:15-17




如果教會只是沉默,沒有你希望的發聲,我們應該體諒。但教會不應容讓領袖主動的參與違背信仰的事。(留意是領袖,不是平信徒。)什麼是主動參與違背信仰的事?例如在無神論的政權之下作高官。基督徒可不可以當官?可不可以做什麼政協委員?答案是可以的。聖經中也有信徒在非信的政權之下當高官。(俄巴底 – 列王紀上 18;乃縵 – 列王紀下 5;但以理) 但是在明顯反對信仰的政權中當官就不應在教會中擔任領袖的角色。




早在教會的初期,在羅馬政府的逼迫下,有不少的教會領袖背棄了信仰。那時對背棄信仰的傳道者的共識是他們是已經「嘗過主恩的滋味」卻在「得知真道以後,若故意犯罪,贖罪的祭就再沒有了, 唯有戰懼等候審判和那燒滅眾敵人的烈火。」(希伯來書 10:26-27)他們要再證明自己的得救就只有殉道。但問題不是背信者是否得救,而是他們所帶領的教會中,從他們手下領洗的會眾是否得救。在教會歷史中這叫作多納圖斯爭議 (Donatist controversy)。

在戴克理 (Diocletian) 先作羅馬皇帝時,極力逼迫基督徒,史稱「戴克理大逼迫」。那時在北非的羅馬總督對當地的基督徒卻網開一面,只需交出聖經並宣示效忠羅馬皇帝,就可免死罪。當時有些神職人員為保護會眾而屈服威權並交出聖經。(當時大部分教會只有一本聖經。)後來君士坦丁對於基督徒停止逼迫,在曾經屈服的教會中的信徒們想回到正統教會之中參與教會崇拜,但是在北非有一群以馬約里努斯(Majorinus)為首的激進派拒絕接納這些「叛教者」。後來由多納圖斯繼承了馬約里努斯的職位,所以這一派信徒被稱「多納圖斯派」。多納圖斯派認為叛教的神職人員所施行的一切聖禮(洗禮、聖餐、按立)都是無效,所以他們帶領的也不是真正的信徒。



哈巴谷書 – 義與不義的交戰


哈巴谷書可能不是大家熟悉的書卷。最熟悉的可能是 2:20 



其次熟悉的是保羅在羅馬書 1:17 中引用的:「義人必因信得生。」是哈巴谷書2:4 的下半節。


哈巴谷書結構簡單,但內容卻充滿 Surprise。用英文 surprise,是因為不是好的「驚喜」,是不好的「驚悲」。


耶和華啊,我呼求你,你不應允,要到幾時呢?我因強暴哀求你,你還不拯救。 你為何使我看見罪孽?你為何看著奸惡而不理呢?毀滅和強暴在我面前,又起了爭端和相鬥的事。 因此律法放鬆,公理也不顯明。惡人圍困義人,所以公理顯然顛倒。

耶和華的回答是第一個 surprise:(1:5-6)

耶和華說:「你們要向列國中觀看,大大驚奇。因為在你們的時候,我行一件事,雖有人告訴你們,你們總是不信。 我必興起迦勒底人,就是那殘忍暴躁之民,通行遍地,占據那不屬自己的住處。



12 耶和華我的神,我的聖者啊,你不是從亙古而有嗎?我們必不致死。耶和華啊,你派定他為要刑罰人;磐石啊,你設立他為要懲治人。 13 你眼目清潔,不看邪僻,不看奸惡。行詭詐的,你為何看著不理呢?惡人吞滅比自己公義的,你為何靜默不語呢? 14 你為何使人如海中的魚,又如沒有管轄的爬物呢? 15 他用鉤鉤住,用網捕獲,用拉網聚集他們。因此他歡喜快樂, 16 就向網獻祭,向網燒香,因他由此得肥美的份和富裕的食物。 17 他豈可屢次倒空網羅,將列國的人時常殺戮,毫不顧惜呢?


之後迦勒底人來了,一切比以前更加不堪。那殘忍暴躁之民,通行遍地,占據那不屬自己的住處。而且迦勒底人是國際性的,他們殺戮的是列國的人。「他用鉤鉤住,用網捕獲,用拉網聚集他們。因此他歡喜快樂, 16 就向網獻祭,向網燒香,因他由此得肥美的份和富裕的食物。」 他們用的不是魚網,而是天網 big data 罷了。




耶和華的再次回答是: 「我會審判不義的人,就從迦勒底人開始。」

將這默示明明地寫在版上,使讀的人容易讀[b]。 因為這默示有一定的日期,快要應驗,並不虛謊。雖然遲延,還要等候,因為必然臨到,不再遲延。


  1. 侵略列國 (v. 4-8)
  2. 貪財 (v.9-11)
  3. 以人血建城 (v.12-14)
  4. 醉酒 (v.15-17)
  5. 拜偶像 (v. 18-19)

2:20 「唯耶和華在他的聖殿中,全地的人都當在他面前肅敬靜默。」神宣判了,全地的人都有罪。「自高自大,心不正直」,唯義人因信得生。




審判來到的時候「錯就要認,打就企定」。哈巴谷的「義人因信得生」,以信心完結這一卷書: (3:16-19)

我聽見耶和華的聲音,身體戰兢,嘴唇發顫,骨中朽爛,我在所立之處戰兢。我只可安靜等候災難之日臨到,犯境之民上來。 17 雖然無花果樹不發旺,葡萄樹不結果,橄欖樹也不效力,田地不出糧食,圈中絕了羊,棚內也沒有牛, 18 然而我要因耶和華歡欣,因救我的神喜樂。 19 主耶和華是我的力量,他使我的腳快如母鹿的蹄,又使我穩行在高處。


如果真是「玩完」又怎麼樣?「然而我要因耶和華歡欣,因救我的神喜樂。 主耶和華是我的力量,他使我的腳快如母鹿的蹄,又使我穩行在高處。」


The Prodigal Father

















Understanding Slavery in the Bible (I)

Why is it important to understand slavery in the Bible?

After all, we do not have slavery anymore in our modern society (so it seems). Therefore what can slavery in the past possibly teach us about modern working conditions?

The Bible was misunderstood

The same word can have different meaning in different context

The word “slave”, like many other words in our daily language, changes over time. In the bible the word “slave” was used over thousands of year over many different cultures and socioeconomic structures. There are much historical details for us to investigate before we can accurately discern what the bible says about slavery. Were all the slaves doing hard labor? Were slavery life long? Could the slaves buy their own freedom? How did the master treat the slaves? How was slavery and race related? Were most of the slaves a certain skin color?

Slavery was prevalent in ancient society

The bible recorded real people and real stories. Since in most of the ancient society, a significant portion of the populations were slaves. Understanding how they lived is integral understanding biblical stories.

The bible had laws regulating slavery does not mean that the bible supported slavery

This is a basic principle regarding the reading of ANY system of laws, including biblical laws. The fact that the bible had laws regarding some aspect of life does not mean that it endorses that aspect of life. For example, the bible has laws regarding divorce (e.g. Dt. 24:1) but Jesus very explicitly stated that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” (Mt. 19:8). Similarly, the bible had regulations regarding war, crimes, the poor, etc. Yes, in the bible there were regulations that allowed people to be sold into slavery, but these does not mean that the bible endorsed slavery. The bible was a book written for real people, and it dealt with real life problems, even the unpleasant ones like slavery.

Master-slave relationship was an image God used to explain his relationship to us

In the Old Testament, Yahweh was know as “the God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt”. The Israelite were constantly reminded of God being the liberator who took them out of slavery.

In the New Testament, a number parables of Jesus portrait God as a master. Disciples were called to “serve” God. Even to this day, we call preachers “servants of God” and we call some officers of the church as “deacons” (“deacon” in Greek means servant). The Apostle Paul contrast the state before and after conversion as “slaves to sin” and “servants of God”.

Many modern labor practices are similar to slavery

While the word “slave” is seldom used as a legal status in modern society, slavery is still present in the modern world. In addition to the deplorable acts of sexual slavery and human trafficking, many regular jobs are in various degree dehumanizing. The father of capitalism, Adam Smith, noted that the industrial revolution had forced workers into mindless and repetitive work:

The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776

Economist Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen describe capabilities and agency of individuals as central to their freedom. A factory worker working long hour on an assembly line with little opportunity for advancement are therefore subjected to economic oppression, or “unfreedom”, using Sen’s term.

Understanding how God dealt with an unfair social system in the past helps us better deal with systematic immorality in the present

We believe that the bible is the Word of God. Although it was written to an ancient audience, through ancient writers, it is nevertheless applicable for the modern world. God who liberated Israel from slavery is the same God who is advocating for the poor and the oppressed today.

Why I say Merry Christmas

Every year as the winter season begins, the same battle of “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holiday” heats up. The politically correct say that “Merry Christmas” is offensive to people of other religions. Therefore considerate and sensitive people should use “Happy Holiday” instead.

Let us consider the following two scenarios:

Scenario A:

(Jane and Joe work at the same office.)

Jane: Happy Holiday!
Joe: Happy Holiday!
(Done till next year. Repeat the same routine every year.)

Scenario B:

Year 2014:

Jane: Merry Christmas!

Joe: Sorry! I am Jewish. We don’t celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah.

Jane: Oh! I am sorry! Happy Hanukkah to you then! (Mental note: Joe is Jewish, and how do Jews celebrate Hanukkah anyway?)

Joe: Merry Christmas to you!

(Jane went to Wikipedia and research how Jews celebrate Hanukkah.)

Year 2015:

Jane: Happy Hanukkah! I got some chocolate gelt for your kids.

Joe: Thank you very much! You’re so thoughtful!

Jane: Glad you like it! Happy Hanukkah to you and your family!

Joe: And Merry Christmas to you!

Jane: Thank you!

Which version of Jane is more considerate and sensitive? Which scenario promotes religious understanding? The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of religious minorities are reasonable people, who will not be offended if they hear a simple “Merry Christmas”. By being political correct, we deny people their rights to be not offended, their rights to carry on a meaningful conversation about their own religions, and their rights to understand others who are different.

Obviously, for politicians and large corporations, they cannot possibly listen to every minority’s story and cater to each of their religion. Therefore a simple “Happy Holiday!” is nice and generic for them. But why should individuals speak like politicians? Why should we greet each other like we work for Walmart?

If you say “Happy Holiday” to me, I will assume that you only care about me as a customer, not as a friend.

My posts

I haven’t kept up with this blog for a while. But I am active on a different blog: iQuest That is a Hong Kong site which focus on public theology. There are much better writers than myself there. I am honored to be part of that venture. iQuest is more general audience focused and less Christian-technical focused than this post.

For fifteenminutesoverlunch, I will put more English articles as well as reflections that are too Christian focused or for iQuest.