48. Practice the Truth to Live Out a Human Likeness
By Miao Xiao, China
I used to think that by doing my duty, getting along with brothers and sisters, and not committing obvious sins, I was living out a human likeness. But I was judged and exposed over and over again by God’s words and I finally saw that having a human likeness isn’t just about external behavior. The key is to practice God’s words, let go of our own interests and hold to principles when something happens, uphold God’s work, and care for His will.
In July 2018, a sister in our church was arrested while spreading the gospel. She’d been at my house, so the police would know where I lived if they’d been tailing her. We rushed to move somewhere else. Soon after settling in, a supervisor came and said, “Three brothers and sisters were followed and arrested. Everyone at the places they went for gatherings has been moved. You should be careful.” I figured, since the police had already arrested some brothers and sisters, they must’ve been tracking them for quite a while. The Communist Party hates God and the truth. They bide their time to search for clues and to catch the big fish to obliterate God’s church and apprehend believers. All of our gathering places could’ve been watched and everyone living in those places should move ASAP. But the supervisor just notified the places the ones who’d been arrested had been to, not any of the other ones. I wondered if I should say something to her. If I didn’t and something happened, who knows how many could be arrested and tortured? This would harm the church’s work, too. But if I did speak up and she didn’t listen, or said I was too timid, wouldn’t her positive image of me be destroyed? I thought of these words from God just as I was worrying over this: “Do everything that is beneficial to God’s work and nothing that is detrimental to the interests of God’s work. Defend God’s name, God’s testimony, and God’s work” (“The Ten Administrative Decrees That Must Be Obeyed by God’s Chosen People in the Age of Kingdom” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This reminded me that as a believer, I should be upholding God’s work and the church’s interests. And so, I shared my thoughts and views with her. I hadn’t finished speaking before she pulled a long face and said, “Move!? If we run away at the slightest thing, is that faith in God’s rule? I used to think you had stature and could take the lead in the team, but it turns out you shrink back as soon as something happens.” I was so upset to hear this. What would the others think after she dealt with me that way? How could I face her after that? But then I thought about upholding the church’s work and protecting brothers’ and sisters’ safety, so I wanted to bring it up again. But seeing how staunch she was worried me. If I kept bringing it up right after being dealt with, she’d say that I lacked the reality of the truth and that I was arrogant and stubborn. Would she still see me as a seeker of the truth? She’d always valued me, including me in important duties and consulting with me on things. If I insisted on my own opinion, she might stop training me and then the others would look down on me. I decided to let it go. I kept my head down and didn’t say a word.
After she left I felt really unsettled, so I said a silent prayer. Then these words of God came to mind: “The most fundamental and important components of one’s humanity are conscience and reason. What kind of person is one who lacks conscience and does not have the reason of normal humanity? Generally speaking, he is a person who lacks humanity, a person of bad humanity. Let’s analyze this closely. How does this person manifest corrupt humanity such that people say he has no humanity? What characteristics do such people possess? What specific manifestations do they present? Such people are perfunctory in their actions and stand aloof from anything that does not concern them personally. They do not consider the interests of God’s house, nor do they show consideration for God’s will. They take on no burden of testifying for God or performing their duties, and they have no sense of responsibility. … There are even people who, upon seeing a problem in the performance of their duty, remain silent. They see that others are causing interruptions and disturbances, yet do nothing to stop them. They do not consider the interests of God’s house in the least, nor do they at all think about their own duties or responsibilities. They speak, act, stand out, put forth effort, and expend energy only for their own vanity, prestige, position, interests, and honor” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words revealed my exact state. I knew those places could be in danger and the people there could be arrested if they weren’t moved. But I was afraid the supervisor would say I was cowardly and lacked faith and she wouldn’t think as highly of me. I didn’t dare stick to the principles and uphold the church’s work. I knew the truth but didn’t practice it. I prayed to God, “Oh God! Reality has shown that I don’t practice the truth in my faith. I don’t uphold God’s work. I just think of my own prestige, status, and interests. I’m so selfish and despicable! God, please give me Your guidance. I wish to truly repent.” Then I remembered that Work Arrangements stipulates that we always have to be mindful of safety in our duty. With a safe environment, brothers and sisters can calmly do their duty, and the work of God’s house won’t easily be disrupted. After that, I shared my thoughts with some other people on the team, and they agreed with me that the other sites were in danger and should be moved. I decided I’d bring it up with the supervisor again when I saw her. I also prayed to God and asked Him for the courage to practice the truth.
A few days later, Sister Zhang, another supervisor, visited our team. She asked us if we’d heard about the arrests and what we thought. I quickly said, “I think the other gathering places might not be safe either. We should tell them to move right away in case—” Before I could finish, Sister Zhang said sternly, “Safe?! Where is it safe to believe in God in China? Where are we free from danger? This is a crucial time for spreading the gospel. How could we do our duty if we cower at every turn? Do you want to hide until God’s work is done and the Communist Party falls?” I thought, “That’s not what I meant. God told us in the Age of Grace, ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves’ (Matthew 10:16). ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee you into another’ (Matthew 10:23).” Doing our duty in China requires wisdom. But from Sister Zhang’s response I could see she didn’t want these sites to be moved and if I insisted, she might say I wouldn’t accept the truth, that there was something wrong with me. Then she went on to say, “Cowards can’t do their duty. They turn into Judases when they’re arrested.” This left me feeling really conflicted. If I kept suggesting everyone move, the supervisors would probably just see me as a coward. They might even dismiss me. What would the others think of me then? With my enthusiasm, they’d had a good impression of me and they’d ask me for fellowship on their problems. If they thought I was cowardly and wouldn’t accept the truth, they wouldn’t see me the same way and I’d be embarrassed to face them. I gave it a lot of thought, but my desire to do the right thing had vanished. I didn’t want to be difficult with the supervisor. I said, “I was just sharing my thoughts. What happens is up to you guys.”
One morning a few days later a sister told us, flustered, that after those arrests some of the gathering sites weren’t moved quickly enough. The police had been tracking them, so three supervisors and some people from gathering sites had been detained. This was so upsetting for me to hear. If I’d just stuck to the principles and explained the importance at the time, or if I’d contacted the church leader directly, we probably wouldn’t have been in that situation. So many had been arrested and the church’s work was seriously hindered. It was directly related to me not being responsible or going by the principles. But it was too late now. The only thing to do was to notify all those potentially endangered ASAP so they wouldn’t fall into the CCP’s evil hands. I got brothers and sisters on that right away.
I reflected on it later. I knew I should protect the interests of God’s house and the church’s work, so why hadn’t I done that in practice? Why was I so selfish, why did I just protect my own interests? Then I read this in God’s words: “Until people have experienced God’s work and gained the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why do you have such strong emotions? Why do you enjoy those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your fondness for such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you have all come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that Satan’s poison is within you. As for what Satan’s poison is, it can be fully expressed with words. For example, if you ask some evildoers why they acted the way they did, they will answer, ‘Because it’s every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. Satan’s logic has become people’s lives. They may do things for this purpose or that, but they are only doing it for themselves. Everyone thinks that since it is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, people should live for their own sakes, and do everything in their power to secure a good position for the sake of food and fine clothing. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life and the philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. These words of Satan are precisely the poison of Satan, and when people internalize it, it becomes their nature. Satan’s nature is exposed through these words; they represent it completely. This poison becomes people’s lives as well as the foundation of their existence, and corrupted humanity has been consistently dominated by this poison for thousands of years” (“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words reveal the root of our selfishness. We live by “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Sensible people are good at self-protection, seeking only to avoid making mistakes,” these satanic poisons. They’ve become our very nature. Everyone fights and lives for themselves and will even sacrifice others’ interests for their own. Corrupt people all live this way, becoming more selfish and deceitful, and the world becomes darker and more evil. Even as a person of faith, God’s words hadn’t become my life. My thinking was still corroded by these satanic poisons, which is why I knew the truth but didn’t practice it. I was afraid of offending the supervisors and hurting my reputation. It wasn’t the truth and the church’s work that were paramount, but my own name and status. I was so selfish! God predetermines what duty I do and when. But I stupidly thought my fate was in the supervisors’ hands, so offending them would be the end of my duty. Wasn’t I denying that the truth and righteousness rule in God’s house? I saw things just like a nonbeliever. I wasn’t a believer. Then I thought of this in God’s words: “You will even think that someone causing disturbances to the work of God’s house has nothing to do with you. No matter how great the loss to God’s work and the interests of His house, you will feel no reproach from your conscience, which means that you will be someone who lives by their satanic disposition. Satan controls you and causes you to live as something neither quite human nor quite demon. You eat what is God’s, drink what is God’s, and enjoy all that comes from Him, yet, when the work of God’s house suffers any loss, you think it has nothing to do with you, and, when you see it happen, you even ‘bend your elbow outward,’[a] and do not take God’s side, nor do you uphold God’s work or the interests of God’s house. This means Satan has power over you, does it not? Do such people live as human beings? Clearly, they are demons, not humans!” (“Only Those Who Practice the Truth Are God-Fearing” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Almighty God’s words pierced my heart like a sword. I breathed the air and ate the food God had made, enjoying life and truth from Him without thinking of repaying His love. I saw the work of God’s house seriously damaged and brothers and sisters in danger, but I didn’t dare uphold the principles, afraid for myself. That meant over 20 people were arrested, jailed, and tortured and our gospel work was seriously hindered. Living in corruption had unspeakable consequences. I was simply doing evil. I never used to understand why God hated selfish people, why He said they lacked humanity and belonged to Satan. Now I understood that the selfish only think of themselves, not others, and even protect their own interests to the detriment of the church’s work. How is that humane? Even animals are better. Dogs know how to protect their owners’ homes and be loyal, but even though God had given me so much, I still bit the hand that fed me. I wasn’t loyal at all and didn’t deserve to be called human. Then I saw that God calling selfish people living Satans wasn’t overdoing it at all. If I didn’t repent and change and practice the truth, I’d do evil, resist God, and be punished by Him. This failure showed me that without pursuing the truth and resolving satanic dispositions, we can’t practice the truth and obey God. Then we’ll never change our dispositions or be saved no matter how long we believe, how much we sacrifice or suffer. Then I prayed to God, “Almighty God! So much harm has come to the church’s work and brothers and sisters because I haven’t practiced the truth or been principled. God, I’ve done evil. I’m ready to repent and accept Your scrutiny. If I still don’t change, but I’m selfish and don’t support the work of God’s house, may You judge and chastise me.”
I read this in God’s words after my prayer: “When you reveal yourself to be selfish and ignoble, and have become conscious of this, you should seek the truth: What should I do to be in line with God’s will? How should I act so that it benefits everyone? That is, you must begin by setting your own interests aside, gradually giving them up according to your stature, a little at a time. After you have experienced this a few times, you will have set them aside completely, and as you do so, you will feel more and more steadfast. The more you set your interests aside, the more you will feel that as a human being, you should have conscience and reason. You will feel that without selfish motives, you are being a straightforward, upright person, and you are doing things entirely in order to satisfy God. You will feel that such behavior makes you worthy of being called ‘human,’ and that in living this way on earth, you are being open and honest, you are being a genuine person, you have a clear conscience, and are worthy of all the things bestowed upon you by God. The more you live like this, the more steadfast and the brighter you will feel. As such, will you not have set foot upon the right track?” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “Do not always do things for your own sake and do not constantly consider your own interests; give no thought to your own status, prestige, or reputation. Also do not consider the interests of man. You must first give thought to the interests of God’s house, and make them your first priority. You should be considerate of God’s will and begin by contemplating whether or not you have been impure in the fulfillment of your duty, whether you have done your utmost to be loyal, done your best to fulfill your responsibilities, and given your all, as well as whether or not you have wholeheartedly given thought to your duty and the work of God’s house. You must give consideration to these things. Think about them frequently, and it will be easier for you to perform your duty well” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). Then I understood that as a Christian, the only way to live with integrity, honor, and humanity is to live by God’s words and the truth, to be mindful of His will, to let go of our interests and protect God’s work in all things. Then we’d feel at peace. I knew I had to practice God’s words and seek to be an upright person.
One evening in November, it was after 10 p.m. when Sister Li, a new supervisor, came to our team. She said Sister Liu, her working partner, left to meet a sister coming from out of town a couple days before, but she never came back. She was afraid she’d been arrested. If so, the others had to be told to move right away. She thought that Sister Liu could also have gone home for some reason and moving everyone would impact their duties. She didn’t know what to do. Hearing this, I thought, “Sister Liu’s believed in God for years and been solid in her duty. She would have let us know if she had gone home. She was probably arrested. I should tell the leaders right away.” But then I thought, “Sister Li is a supervisor. If she’s not sure and she’s afraid of disrupting the church’s work, how can I be sure? If we go to all the trouble to move everyone but Sister Liu wasn’t arrested, the leader might deal with us and say we’re disrupting the church’s work. Should I speak up, or not?”
In my struggle, I read God’s words: “Do everything that is beneficial to God’s work and nothing that is detrimental to the interests of God’s work. Defend God’s name, God’s testimony, and God’s work” (“The Ten Administrative Decrees That Must Be Obeyed by God’s Chosen People in the Age of Kingdom” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “If the more crucial a moment it is, the more able people are to submit and let go of their self-interests, vanity, and pride, and perform their duties properly, only then will they be remembered by God. Those are all good deeds! Regardless of what people do, which is more important—their vanity and pride, or God’s glory? (God’s glory.) Which are more important—your responsibilities, or your own interests? Fulfilling your responsibilities is what is most important, and you are duty-bound to them” (“Gaining God and the Truth Is the Happiest of Things” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God clearly tells us to uphold His work and do our duty well. Now facing a conflict between my interests and those of the church, God was watching. If I was selfish like before, that would be lacking humanity. Last time had been a painful lesson, a terrible price to pay. I couldn’t repeat that mistake. I said to Sister Li, “It’s possible Sister Liu went back home, but we can’t be sure. We should plan for the worst and move those brothers and sisters. Even if we’re wrong, it’s for the church’s work and for everyone’s safety. We’re looking at the big picture. If we see danger and don’t act in time and people are arrested, we’ll have been Judases and any regrets will come too late. The danger is growing by the day. Let’s take care of it right away.” I told her about how some church members had been arrested before and she agreed with me. She got things started early the next morning, and the night after that, we also cleared out of that place.
While doing this, the supervisor said, “Sister Liu and that other sister were arrested and the police got four others from a gathering place. We moved just in time. If we’d waited, even more people would’ve been taken.” I was seething when I heard his. The Communist Party is so evil! In a country as big as China, there’s nowhere for Christians to hide! I also felt how important it is to protect the church’s interests. I felt better because this time I’d been able to practice the truth and be responsible and so less damage was done. I felt living by God’s words is the only way to live with humanity. I also personally experienced that without the judgment of God’s words, I’d still be bound by satanic philosophies and dispositions, doing evil and resisting God. I wouldn’t be able to let go of my own interests and adhere to principles, and I’d never have humanity. Just as Almighty God’s words say: “If you can fulfill your responsibilities, perform your obligations and duties, set aside your selfish desires, set aside your own intents and motives, have consideration for God’s will, and put the interests of God and His house first, then after experiencing this for a while, you will feel that this is a good way to live. It is living straightforwardly and honestly, without being a base person or a good-for-nothing, and living justly and honorably rather than being narrow-minded or mean. You will feel that this is how a person should live and act” (“Give Your True Heart to God, and You Can Obtain the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
a. “Bend one’s elbow outward” is a Chinese idiom, which means a person is helping others at the expense of people close to that person, for example parents, children, relatives or siblings.