How to Treat Parental Kindness

February 9, 2024

By Jian Xi, China

When I was young, I had a weak constitution and often fell ill. Sometimes, my parents would rush me to the clinic in the middle of the night. They would knock on the door of the doctor’s home late at night, and no matter how bad his tone or how poor his attitude, my parents were always willing to endure it. It was all so that I could receive prompt treatment. They feared my condition would worsen, so they stayed overnight to look after me. Later on, I grew a bit older, and when I saw that my parents were exhausted after work every day, I felt sorry for them. But they always said to me: “We need to earn more money to give you a better life, and to have the money to buy you what you like.” I thought that my parents had done so much for me, and I made up my mind to be filial to them and not let them get too tired. When my parents went to work, I would clean the house, and I learned to do laundry and cook. Every time my parents came home and saw that everything was in order, they said in a very pleased voice: “We didn’t raise this child in vain!” Hearing these words, I felt very happy. I thought that it was quite worthwhile to make things a bit easier for my parents and give them a little more time to rest.

Later on, the three of us began believing in God, and I went to another place to perform my duty. My mother was very supportive of me performing my duty, and although my father wasn’t as happy about it, he also respected my choice. Later, the circumstances became increasingly adverse, and many brothers and sisters were arrested while performing their duties. One time, I went home, and my father said to me anxiously: “We have raised you for so many years, and we’ve never asked that you have too bright a future; we just want you to stay by our side. But you left home to perform your duty, and we usually can’t see you when we want to. Now these circumstances are quite adverse; if you are arrested down the road, what can I do? What will come of your future?” My father’s words surprised me a lot. How could he say something like that? If I gave up on performing my duties because I was afraid of being arrested, then was I not betraying God and becoming a deserter? I said to my father gravely: “Dad, you should not stop me from performing my duty. I’m all grown up now, and leaving home to perform my duty is a choice I made after careful consideration. You should support me!” He was very angry, and said: “I raised you for all these years, and you leave just like that. I guess I see it clearly now. I have raised an ungrateful wretch!” When I heard these words, I was very distressed, and I couldn’t keep my eyes from welling up with tears. I thought of when I fell ill as a kid, and how my father would hold me all night without closing his eyes, all just to take care of me, and how my parents would work hard to make money and provide a good life for me. But now, not only was I unfilial to them, I couldn’t even keep them company. I hadn’t fulfilled my obligation as their son at all. Looking at my angry father from behind as he went away, I felt guilty; I wanted to be together with my parents and spend more time with them. But at this time, I thought of God. Back when I didn’t believe in God, I often felt empty inside, and I didn’t know why I existed in this world. After believing in God, through reading His words I came to understand that it is God who created humans, and it is God who gave me this breath. I have my own mission in this world. Only then did I find the value in my own existence, and I no longer felt empty and lost. Having enjoyed such great love from God, I couldn’t be without a conscience and couldn’t give up performing my duty. At that point, I gained the power to forsake my flesh, and I went out to continue performing my duty.

In 2019, I was arrested while performing my duty one time. During the interrogation, the police brought my uncle to the detention center, and said that he was my biological father. They told me to explain the church’s situation without delay, so that I could go home and reunite with my birth parents. I didn’t say anything. In the end, my uncle spent money to have me released from custody. The police suspected that I was following my parents in believing in God, and they did not permit me to go home or come into contact with them. They only let my uncle take me to another place. Because my uncle bailed me out, the police called to intimidate him almost every day. My uncle believed the rumors he heard from the Communist Party, and he stopped me from believing in God. He said: “You’re a grown man already, you should know better. Your mother and I, as well as your adoptive parents, can’t stand being tormented like this. Because you believe in God, the police call every day to harass us. I’m so old already. When the police reprimanded me, I still shamefully put in a good word for you. Do you know how hard this is for me?” Seeing my biological father and my adoptive parents getting tied up in my affairs, I was in great pain. People in ancient times used to say: “Filial piety is a virtue to be held above all else.” Being filial to one’s parents and making them worry less is something that all children should do. My adoptive parents raised me for all these years, and my biological parents were blackmailed into paying 140,000 yuan to the police to bail me out. I felt such guilt inside. Before, I was performing my duties and could not be by their side to look after them, and now I was arrested for believing in God, involving them in my suffering. I have not done any of the things that children should do; all I have brought upon them is burdens. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt, and I even thought: “Is it true that my family troubles will only subside if I give up believing in God? Is it true that only if I died would police then stop keeping a close watch over my family, and would my parents no longer be harassed and humiliated?” At that time, I felt extremely oppressed. I knew that I had developed thoughts of betraying God, and I thought that I owed Him, but as soon as I thought of how my adoptive and biological parents had been tied up in my trouble, I was full of guilt inside. I was being pulled from both sides, and I was never able to be calm.

During that time, my uncle and aunt forced me to start working in order to stop me from believing in God. They also had my colleagues monitor me, and if I so much as came home late, they would interrogate me: “Where were you? Who were you with?” My aunt even got on her knees and begged, and also refused to eat in order to pressure me to give up believing in God. Faced with such circumstances, I was having a mental breakdown. I felt that I had no freedom and especially no personal rights in this home. I felt as if my throat was being clutched and I was gasping for breath. I wanted to resist, and to argue with them: “Why do you treat me like this just because I believe in God?” But as soon as I thought of how they were involved in this trouble because of me, and how they had been fined so much money, the resistance in my heart disappeared. Instead, I thought that it was I who was unfilial, that they had no choice but to treat me like this, and that the parent is always right. Especially when I thought of how I hadn’t been by my parents’ side to keep them company and show filial piety these last few years, I felt even more like I had let them down. During that period, I exhausted all means to make up what I owed to my parents. I bought them healthcare products, took on all the housework, and did all I could to work and make money. I would gladly endure the hardship of working overtime until late at night every day. I just wanted to make more money and bring them some more enjoyment. Before I knew it, God and I grew further and further apart.

After a period of time, the police called and said they were going to come take me away, and that they wanted to hear from me about the church’s situation. I knew that if I continued to stay at home, there was a chance I would be arrested, but I also thought that if I left, I didn’t know when I could return. Besides, if the police couldn’t find me, would they take away my parents and my uncle and aunt instead? If this was truly the case, then how unfilial I would be. All I could think about was the words of my parents: My aunt wanted me to stay by her side and wanted to have a good family. My uncle said that I was a grown-up and was sensible, and that I had to be considerate of them. My father said he wanted me to show filial piety to him and did not want to raise an ungrateful child. At that moment, I felt like everything was falling apart. At that time, I prayed to God: “God, since the police are going to arrest me, I can’t stay at home. But I think that if I left, I would be unfilial and without a conscience. I am in great pain. God, how should I choose? Please guide me!” After praying, I thought of a passage of God’s words. “Were it not for the Creator’s predestination and His guidance, a life newly born into this world would not know where to go or where to stay, would have no relations, belong nowhere, and have no real home. But because of the Creator’s meticulous arrangements, this new life has a place to stay, parents, a place it belongs, and relatives, and hence that life sets out on the course of its journey. Throughout this process, the materialization of this new life is determined by the Creator’s plans, and everything it will come to possess is bestowed upon it by the Creator. From a free-floating body with nothing to its name, it gradually becomes a flesh-and-blood, visible, tangible human being, one of God’s creations, who thinks, breathes, and senses warm and cold; who can participate in all the usual activities of a created being in the material world; and who will undergo all the things a created human being must experience in life. The predetermination of a person’s birth by the Creator means that He will bestow upon that person all things necessary for survival; and, likewise, the fact that a person is born means they will receive all things necessary for survival from the Creator, and from that point on, they will live in another form, provided for by the Creator and subject to the Creator’s sovereignty(The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique III). From God’s words, I understood that I am just a solitary, free-floating body. It was God who arranged a family and parents for me; it was God who ruled over this. But my being born into this world was not merely to enjoy familial warmth and show filial piety to my parents, but more for me to assume the responsibility and mission expected of created beings. Now, I was thinking of giving up my own duty in order to satisfy my parents. This is not what God wanted to see. God supplied me with everything; I could not give up my duty and betray Him. After that, I left home to perform my duty.

Soon after, I learned that since the police could not arrest me, they took my uncle instead. They let it be known that they would only release him when I returned. In that instant, I felt a bit faint, and thought that I had let my uncle down. I badly wanted to go back and replace him in custody. I was not in the mood to perform my duty, and all I thought about was the voices and faces of my family members. I thought that their misfortune was all because of me, especially when I thought of how my uncle had been arrested; I didn’t know how the police would treat him. Would they beat him? The more I thought, the more it pained me, and I prayed to God in my heart: “God, today I am faced with these kinds of circumstances, and I don’t know how to experience them. My heart is in pain, and I have no heart for performing my duty. I don’t want to live in such a state. God, what should I do? I beg You to guide me, to make me turn this state around.” After praying, I read a passage of God’s words: “Some people abandon their families because they believe in God and perform their duties. They become famous because of this and the government frequently searches their house, harasses their parents, and even threatens their parents to hand them over. All their neighbors talk about them, saying, ‘This person has no conscience. They don’t care for their elderly parents. Not only are they unfilial, but they also cause so much trouble for their parents. They are an unfilial child!’ Are any of these words in line with the truth? (No.) But aren’t all these words considered right in the eyes of the unbelievers? Among unbelievers, they think this is the most legitimate and reasonable way of looking at it, and that it is in line with human ethics, and in accordance with the standards of human conduct. No matter how much content is included in these standards, such as how to show filial respect to parents, how to take care of them in their old age and arrange their funerals, or how much to repay them, and regardless of whether these standards accord with the truth or not, in the eyes of unbelievers, they are positive things, they are positive energy, they are right, and they are considered irreproachable within all groups of people. Among unbelievers, these are the standards for people to live by, and you have to do these things to be an adequately good person in their hearts. Before you believed in God and understood the truth, didn’t you also firmly believe that such conduct was being a good person? (Yes.) Moreover, you also used these things to evaluate yourself and restrain yourself, and you required yourself to be this kind of person. If you wanted to be a good person, you must have surely included these things in your standards of conduct: how to be filial to your parents, how to make them feel less worried, how to bring them honor and credit, and how to bring glory to your ancestors. These were the standards of conduct in your heart and the direction of your conduct. However, after you listened to God’s words and His sermons, your viewpoint began to change, and you understood that you have to forsake everything to fulfill your duty as a created being, and that God requires people to conduct themselves this way. Before you were certain that performing your duty as a created being was the truth, you thought you should be filial to your parents, but you also felt you should perform your duty as a created being, and you felt conflicted inside. Through the continuous watering and shepherding of God’s words, you gradually came to understand the truth, and it was then that you realized that performing your duty as a created being is perfectly natural and justified. Up until this day, many people have been able to accept the truth and completely abandon the standards of conduct from man’s traditional notions and imaginings. When you completely let go of these things, you are no longer constrained by words of judgment and condemnation from unbelievers when you follow God and perform your duty as a created being, and you could cast them off easily(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Is the Truth Reality?). After reading God’s words, I was very moved. Much of the time, I was judging right and wrong according to the standard of conscience, but this is not in line with the truth. My life originates from God; it is God who brought my soul into this world and arranged a family and parents for me, who selected me to accept His salvation in the last days, and who gave me the opportunity to perform my duty as a created being. This is the love and grace of God. But because my uncle was arrested by the police, I thought that this hardship was brought upon my family due to my belief in God, and I wanted to abandon my duty and betray Him. How stupid I was! To this day, all that my family has been subjected to was brought about by the demon, the Communist Party. They opposed God and persecuted Christians, harassed my family and arrested my uncle, and made it so that my parents did not spend a single day in peace. The Communist Party was the real culprit! But I did not hate the Communist Party, and thought that it was my belief in God that got my family in trouble. I truly could not tell right from wrong. Now, I understood that it was perfectly natural and justified for me to follow God and perform my duty. This is the conscience and reason that people should have! I thought of another passage of God’s words: “The amount an individual must suffer and the distance they must walk on their path is ordained by God, and no one can really help anyone else(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Path … (6)). No matter whether someone believes in God or not, every person’s life is in God’s hands and is controlled and ruled over by God. God has predetermined how much each person will suffer, and we cannot change it. My parents and adoptive parents are also in God’s hands; I should hand them over to God. And then, I silently prayed to God, willing to entrust everything to God and submit to His arrangement. After that, I threw myself into performing my duty.

Afterward, I read a passage of God’s words that brought me further understanding of my own state. Almighty God says, “Due to the conditioning of Chinese traditional culture, in Chinese people’s traditional notions they believe that one must observe filial piety toward their parents. Whoever does not observe filial piety is an unfilial child. These ideas have been instilled in people since childhood, and they are taught in practically every household, as well as in every school and in society at large. When a person’s head has been filled with such stuff, they think, ‘Filial piety is more important than anything. If I weren’t to observe it, I wouldn’t be a good person—I’d be an unfilial child and I’d be denounced by society. I’d be a person who lacks conscience.’ Is this view correct? People have seen so many truths expressed by God—has God demanded that one show filial piety toward their parents? Is this one of the truths that believers in God must understand? No, it is not. God has only fellowshiped on some principles. By what principle do God’s words ask that people treat others? Love what God loves, and hate what God hates: This is the principle that should be adhered to. God loves those who pursue the truth and are able to follow His will; these are also the people that we should love. Those who are not able to follow God’s will, who hate and rebel against God—these people are despised by God, and we should despise them, too. This is what God asks of man. If your parents do not believe in God, if they know full well that faith in God is the right path, and that it can lead to salvation, yet remain unreceptive, then there is no doubt that they are people who are sick of and hate the truth, and that they are people who resist and hate God—and God naturally abhors and despises them. Could you despise such parents? They oppose and revile God—in which case they are surely demons and Satans. Could you abhor and curse them? These are all real questions. If your parents prevent you from believing in God, how should you treat them? As is asked by God, you should love what God loves, and hate what God hates. During the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus said, ‘Who is My mother? And who are My brothers?’ ‘For whoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother.’ These words already existed back in the Age of Grace, and now God’s words are even more clear: ‘Love what God loves, and hate what God hates.’ These words cut straight to the point, yet people are often unable to grasp their true meaning. If a person is someone who denies and opposes God, who is cursed by God, but they are a parent or relative of yours, and not an evildoer as far as you can tell, and they treat you well, then you might find yourself unable to hate that person, and might even remain in close contact with them, your relationship unchanged. Hearing that God despises such people will trouble you, and you are unable to stand on the side of God and ruthlessly reject them. You’re always bound by emotion, and you cannot fully let go of them. What is the reason for this? This happens because your emotions are too strong, and they hinder you from practicing the truth. That person is good to you, so you can’t bring yourself to hate them. You could only hate them if they did hurt you. Would that hatred be in line with the truth principles? Also, you’re bound by traditional notions, thinking that they are a parent or relative, so if you hate them, you would be scorned by society and reviled by public opinion, condemned as unfilial, without a conscience, and not even human. You think you would suffer divine condemnation and punishment. Even if you want to hate them, your conscience won’t let you. Why does your conscience function this way? It’s because a way of thinking has been sown within you since you were a child, through the inheritance of your family, the education given to you by your parents, and the indoctrination of traditional culture. This way of thinking is rooted very deeply in your heart, and it makes you mistakenly believe that filial piety is perfectly natural and justified, and that anything inherited from your ancestors is always good. You learned it first and it remains dominant, creating a great stumbling block and disturbance in your faith and acceptance of the truth, leaving you unable to put God’s words into practice, and to love what God loves, hate what God hates(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Recognizing One’s Own Misguided Views Can One Truly Transform). From God’s words, I understood that Satan used all kinds of means to corrupt people. For example, the guidance of our parents, the education of our schools, and the opinions of people around us made us believe that because our parents raised us, we must repay their kindness, and that this is what it means to have humanity and a conscience. Otherwise, we would lack a conscience, be unfilial, and be spurned by others. From a young age, I was instilled with these ideas and views, such as “Filial piety is a virtue to be held above all else,” “The parent is always right,” “Showing filial piety to one’s parents is perfectly natural and justified.” Because I had these traditional ideas and views inside me, when I left home to perform my duty and couldn’t take care of my parents, I blamed myself and felt guilty. I wasn’t in the mood to perform my duty, and I regretted going away to do it. When I saw my uncle spend 140,000 yuan to have me released, and when I learned that he was harassed and arrested by the police, I thought that my family had become involved in this trouble all because I believed in God, and I wanted to give up on performing my duty and betray God, even wanting to take my own life. My uncle and aunt controlled my freedom and monitored my whereabouts to keep me from believing in God. My aunt even got down on her knees and stopped eating to force me to give up my belief in God. I was in great pain and felt extremely oppressed. But I did not dare and was not willing to resist them. I believed that “The parent is always right” and that as their child, to make them suffer such hardships, to the point that my aunt got on her knees and begged me, meant that I was too unfilial. Even though, at that time, I knew that obeying them and not performing my duty would amount to betraying God, and that I would lose my chance to gain the truth, I lacked the strength to resist them. Although I never said that I did not believe in God, my various behaviors throughout most of this year showed that I bowed down to Satan and traditional thinking. All that was left were transgressions and stains; I betrayed God time and time again. Now, I saw clearly that although being filial to one’s parents was a positive thing, it was not the truth, because such a viewpoint would make me lack principles, and even unable to tell good from evil or right from wrong. My uncle and aunt stopped me from believing in God, covertly imprisoning me, and said blasphemous words about Him. They even said that as long as they were living, and unless they died, they would not permit me to believe in God, that if I kept God, I would lose my family, and if I kept my family, I would lose God. Their essence was hostile to the truth and to God. Also, my adoptive father was always holding me back, playing the negative role of Satan’s lackey. I should have discerned them, loving what God loves and hating what He hates. But I believed that “Filial piety is a virtue to be held above all else,” and such traditional thinking was leading me to rebel against God. I almost gave up on performing my duty and betrayed Him. I now understood that the ideas and views that Satan instilled in people all carried cunning schemes. They were deceiving and harming people.

Later, I read this passage of God’s words. “So, regarding people, no matter whether your parents looked after you meticulously or took great care of you, in any case, they were just fulfilling their responsibility and obligation. Regardless of the reason why they raised you, it was their responsibility—because they gave birth to you, they should take responsibility for you. Based on this, can everything that your parents did for you be considered kindness? It can’t, right? (That’s right.) Your parents fulfilling their responsibility to you doesn’t count as kindness, so if they fulfill their responsibility toward a flower or a plant, watering it and fertilizing it, does that count as kindness? (No.) That is even further from being kindness. Flowers and plants grow better outside—if they’re planted in the ground, with wind, sun, and rainwater, they thrive. They don’t grow as well when they’re planted in a pot indoors as they do outside, but wherever they are, they’re living, right? No matter where they are, it has been ordained by God. You are a living person, and God takes responsibility for every life, enabling it to survive, and to follow the law that all created beings abide by. But as a person, you live in the environment that your parents raise you in, so you should grow up and exist in that environment. You living in that environment is on a larger scale due to God’s ordination; on a smaller scale, it is due to your parents raising you, right? In any case, by raising you your parents are fulfilling a responsibility and an obligation. Raising you into an adult is their obligation and responsibility, and this cannot be called kindness. If it cannot be called kindness, then is it not something that you ought to enjoy? (It is.) This is a kind of right that you should enjoy. You should be raised by your parents, because before you reach adulthood, the role that you play is that of a child being brought up. Therefore, your parents are just fulfilling a kind of responsibility toward you, and you are just receiving it, but you are certainly not receiving grace or kindness from them. For any living creature, bearing and looking after children, reproducing, and raising the next generation is a kind of responsibility. For example, birds, cows, sheep, and even tigers have to take care of their offspring after they reproduce. There are no living creatures that do not raise their offspring. It’s possible that there are some exceptions, but there are not many of them. It’s a natural phenomenon in the existence of living creatures, it’s an instinct for living creatures, and it cannot be attributed to kindness. They are just abiding by a law that the Creator set out for animals and for mankind. Therefore, your parents raising you isn’t a kind of kindness. Based on this, it can be said that your parents are not your creditors. They are fulfilling their responsibility to you. No matter how much effort and money they spend on you, they should not ask you to recompense them, because this is their responsibility as parents. Since it is a responsibility and an obligation, it should be free, and they should not ask for compensation. By raising you, your parents were just fulfilling their responsibility and obligation, and this should be unpaid, and it should not be a transaction. So, you do not need to approach your parents or handle your relationship with them according to the idea of recompensing them(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. How to Pursue the Truth (17)). From His words, I understood that parents giving birth to, raising, and meticulously caring for their children is not kindness, but rather their responsibility and obligation as parents. It’s just like how God said that if one moves flowers and grass from outside into their home, then that person has the responsibility to take care of, water, and fertilize them; this is their responsibility. Another example is that cats, dogs, and other such animals reproduce and take care of their children, which is instinctual for them. Human parents are the same with their children. When a child is not yet an adult, raising and looking after them is a responsibility and obligation that all parents should fulfill, and it is also an instinct given to people by God. Children do not owe their parents because of it. I always believed that the meticulous care of my adoptive parents was a kindness that must be paid back, and that I must repay my uncle and aunt for giving birth to me. Now, I understood that this breath was given to me by God, and not by my parents. If God did not give me this breath, then even if my parents had given birth to me, I would have just been a stillborn fetus. My parents brought me up and looked after me, giving me a good environment for growth. This is what they should do as parents, and it is what God has predetermined and arranged. Also, during my period of growth, it was God who truly cared for me and protected me. Just like how one time after school, I rode my e-bike too fast and couldn’t stop, and I was crammed between stone slabs and a large truck. At the time, the truck was moving forward at full speed, and I was also forced to keep riding my e-bike forward. All along, my foot was stuck between the truck and my e-bike, rubbing against them nonstop. When the road widened, my e-bike finally came to a stop. It was really nerve-wracking. At the time, many people had sweaty palms and thought that I would certainly be seriously injured. I also thought that I certainly wouldn’t be able to walk on that foot. I was stunned to see that there was not a single wound on my body. I really experienced firsthand how God is always silently caring for and protecting me. Also, when my uncle and aunt paid 140,000 yuan to the police for me to be released, I thought that this was the greatest kindness I could receive, and that I must pay them back. Now, I understood that even though it appeared that it was my uncle and aunt who paid this money, in the background it was God who ruled over and arranged this. During that time, my uncle and aunt made money very easily, so easily that even they themselves were surprised. Actually, now that I thought about it, if God had not blessed them to make all that money, then where would the money to release me have come from? I remembered that God said: “Should anyone do us a good turn, we should accept it from God—in particular our parents, who gave birth to and raised us; this is all arranged by God. God rules over all; man is just a tool for service(The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Recognizing One’s Own Misguided Views Can One Truly Transform). On the surface, it was my parents who raised me, and my uncle and aunt who paid to have me released. But from the perspective of the truth, all of this was ruled over and arranged by God. I am not indebted to them. I do not need to use my life to settle this debt at the expense of my salvation. I can show filial piety to them, but only within the scope of my own powers. Under suitable circumstances and conditions, I can keep them company and show them filial piety. But if the conditions aren’t met, I don’t need to reproach myself. I just need to perform my duties well. If I gave up on God and the truth in order to show filial piety to my parents, then even though people would call me a filial son, I would have betrayed the Creator, which is a great rebellion and lacks humanity! In fact, the one I truly owed was not my parents, but God. It was God’s care and protection that allowed me to make it to today; He is the one I should thank the most! So, I prayed to God: “God, what my parents experience and how the police treat them is in Your hands now. I cannot change anything, and I am willing to hand them over to You. I only want to peacefully perform my duty as a created being and properly experience Your work.”

From then on, I felt a bit more at ease in relation to the circumstances that my family encountered, and I began to contemplate how to perform my duty well. Before long, I got in contact with my mother. She wrote a letter sharing her experience with me. She said that experiencing such circumstances strengthened her resolve to pursue the truth, and told me not to worry about what happened at home and to focus on pursuing the truth and fulfilling my duty. She also said that the police saw that I had still not come home, and they knew that detaining my uncle was useless, so they let him go. At that moment, I was very emotional. I became acutely aware that the circumstances I had encountered up until now had God’s will in them, and that they were meant to reverse my view on things and clean the impurities inside me. This is God taking responsibility for my life!

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