LIFE IN EXILE
CHAPTER 7 Sacrificial Love
The Fragrance of Christ
In Wuhan Hospital there was a small room by the morgue for use by relatives of the deceased for memorial meetings. Hanging horizontally inside the room was a scroll bearing these words: “Meek, humble, godly, modest, gave up his all, held fast the truth.” They described the impression left of Brother Lan. In addition, two sentences were displayed, one on each side of the scroll: “finished the good race” and “fought the good fight.” These words formed his epitaph.
His firstborn spoke on behalf of his six children, “We regret to say that we didn’t care enough for our father. For not having fulfilled our filial duty, we’re burdened with a guilty conscience. However, our father had devoted all his energy, his mind and loving care to the orphans. We hardly experienced his fatherly love; in fact, we can’t even recall him ever hugging us.”
An elderly sister in the Lord stood up and said, “God is ‘a father of the fatherless (Psa. 68:5).’ Your father had accepted from the Lord the burden of caring for the orphans. Being faithful to the Lord, he had painstakingly cared for many helpless and unloved orphans, bringing them to the Lord. Who doesn’t love his own children? But the orphans needed love more than you did. Your father turned you over to the care of the Heavenly Father. Even though you were labeled by the Communists as “children of a counter-revolutionary” and, as such, had suffered much abuse and despise, haven’t you, by God’s wonderful hand, all graduated from universities? Perhaps no other family present can compare with you! Don’t you believe that’s due to the gracious hand of God?”
A brother in the Lord added, “I’m an orphan who was raised by Uncle Lan about 40 years ago. One time he took me along to Shanghai to purchase merchandise. It was daybreak when the train reached the Shanghai station. We entered a small noodle restaurant and ordered two bowls of noodles, one with soup only and the other with shredded pork and soup. He insisted that I take the bowl with pork while he took the other. For the past 40 years, he had loved us more than he loved himself. This is something we’ll never forget.”
A co-worker of the orphanage also spoke, “As the bird of the air that depends entirely on the Heavenly Father’s provision, our orphanage did not receive any fixed provision from any church or member. We frequently experienced the miraculous provision of our Heavenly Father who’s true and living, faithful and kind. I used to share a bed with Brother Lan, and in the winter we shared one quilted blanket. Whenever I went to bed before he did, I’d wake up to find him sleeping in his day clothes, leaving the whole blanket for me.”
Then, Brother Lan’s firstborn related two more incidents. The first incident occurred not long ago when he took his father to the hospital dormitory for a temporary stay because of necessary repair on Brother Lan’s leaky roof. Late one night, when Brother Lan returned to the dormitory after using the toilet, he found that the dormitory door was shut by the wind. Being thoughtful and careful not to wake up the workers in the dormitory, he sat alone in the work-station until daybreak. He was always more concerned for others than for himself. The second incident also occurred recently and was regarding Brother Lan’s youngest daughter-in-law. Not quite recovered from childbirth, she had to report for work after expiration of her childbirth vacation. Maintaining a “clear break”1 with her father-in-law who was a “counter-revolutionary,” she would not let him take care of her child but insisted on bringing her child to work. Even so, Brother Lan followed her at a distance for fear that she might collapse on her way to work. He followed her as she boarded and alighted from the bus. Only after making sure that she had safely arrived at her workplace did he return home. Later on, when she found out what he had been doing, she was both ashamed and touched.
Another co-worker also spoke. “When I first met Brother Lan, he was praying on his knees. I also knelt down beside him and prayed with him. Since then, whenever we met, we’d first pray on our knees before we talked. Brother Lan was a Christian who lived on his knees. That was the secret of his victory.”
Thanks to the wonderful Lord! Through the testimonies of this memorial service, the Holy Spirit did great works; the children who formerly did not believe Christ accepted Him and those who were already Christians were spiritually revived and became more zealous.
Some Christians compare “praying ceaselessly (I Thes. 5:17) to the breathing of a whale. The whale, a mammal, breathes with its lungs and floats to the water surface to inhale fresh air every few minutes, an act also known as “touching the sky.” Some Christians compare abiding in Christ to the two brass rods on top of a trackless trolley. They are continuously connected with the power source – God, the fountain of spiritual life and power. Some Christians compare abiding in Christ to being engaged on the phone with God, leaving the line of communication open during sleep and picking it up again the next morning after waking up to carry on with the worship, praise, prayer and fellowship. David, a man of God in the Old Testament, said in his psalm, “Blessed is the man whom You choose and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in your courts” (Psa. 95:4). All who believe and are born again are “in Christ.” However, we can easily neglect to “abide in Him.”
Satan cannot separate us from Christ (John 10:28-29) but can easily lure the branch away from the vine. Strictly speaking, such a departure from the vine is our failure. Satan does not necessarily make us sin explicitly in words or in acts; his goal is achieved as long as we give up “praying ceaselessly.” This is the core of spiritual warfare; it is a pity that we often neglect the one most needful thing (Luke 10:38-42). Brothers and sisters, this is the secret of building the house on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27) and of being cedars planted by the waters with roots spread by the river (Jer. 17:7-8; Num. 24:6; Psa. 1:3). This has been the secret to becoming triumphant Christians throughout the generations.
In recent years, a handful of overseas Christians are beginning to advocate, learn, and to teach and practice “abiding in Christ.” But he who truly abides in Christ is like Paul and Brother Lan – who always “triumph in Christ, and make manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (II Cor. 2:14-15). Please note that the spreading of Christ’s fragrance involves the price of dying to oneself. In this regard, we thank our God! This is because such price can be paid through the unfathomable grace that can be drawn ceaselessly from His throne of grace. In other words, we cannot in any way afford to pay the price; the price is actually paid by the Lord Himself – how we should thank the Lord without ceasing!
Brother Lan’s testimony is a living example that is well worth our self-reflection, perusal, meditation and imitation (just as he had imitated and abided in Christ).
1. Communist policy demanded everyone to maintain a clear break with the so-called “counter-revolutionary.”