When Performing Duties Conflicts With Filial Piety

March 2, 2024

By Mu Cheng, China

In the past few years, I performed my duties away from home. I would miss my mom sometimes, but my duty kept me busy and she was still young and in pretty good health, so I didn’t feel too constrained or worried while doing my duty. Then, in September of 2020, the Communist Party used the census as an excuse to go from house to house looking for believers. During that census, I was arrested and detained by the police. When I was let out on bail and went home, I noticed my mom had grown a lot more grey hairs after all those years apart, had lost a lot of mobility, and her stomach illness had intensified. If she ate the wrong thing, she would be in pain for days on end. Due to safety concerns, she hadn’t been able to attend gatherings and she was in a bad state. And due to my being arrested twice by the police, she had gotten so worried that she became depressed and wouldn’t go out of the house. I felt just awful. My father had passed away early on, and mom had suffered a lot to put my sister and me through school. I had always wanted to show some filiality to my mom but never had the chance to do so. Now that I was home, I could finally take care of my mom.

As soon as I came home, the National Security Brigade came to our house and told me I had to check in with them every month and report my work status and whereabouts. Due to this, I was unable to contact the church and do my duty, so I took a photography job and spent the rest of my time looking after my mom. When I had time, I would chat with my mom about my experiences those past few years, and my sister and I would also take her out to eat at restaurants. Sometimes, I’d take her to the hospital for checkups and I’d buy her supplements for her stomach issue. The police were always coming to our house and bothering us, making me report to them and sign the “Three Statements.” Seeing how they were controlling me and worrying that something would happen to me, my mom actually became even more depressed and stopped interacting with non-family members. She wouldn’t even go out to buy groceries. I was quite worried to see my mom acting like that, and was concerned she might develop a mental illness. I did everything I could to give her guidance—I fellowshiped with her, I took her out to help her relax, but nothing worked. I was worried and anxious. All I could do was work a little harder to give myself a better life, so she wouldn’t worry so much about me. Just like that, a year went by, and the police still hadn’t let up their tight grip on me. I still couldn’t do my duty near my home. Later on, my brothers and sisters asked if I could leave home to perform a duty. Because my mom wasn’t doing well and I wanted to take care of her, I turned down the assignment. After that, they fellowshiped with me several times, supported and helped me, fellowshiped God’s will and hoped that I would continue doing my duty. I could sense that this was God’s love and salvation descending upon me but I still felt conflicted. I thought of how if I went off to do my duty again, the police would surely notice I’d stopped reporting to them, and who knows when I’d be able to come back home. My mom was in poor health and she was in a terrible state. If I stayed by her side, I could at least take care of her and practice some filial piety. Would she become even more depressed if I left? What if she got even worse and developed a mental illness? What would my friends and relatives think of me then? Wouldn’t they think of me as unfilial? Due to these concerns, I felt really conflicted and didn’t know what to do.

During that time, I came across a passage of God’s words regarding filial piety. God’s words say: “God told people to honor their parents first, and afterward, God put forward higher requirements for people with regard to them practicing the truth, performing their duties, and following the way of God—which of these should you adhere to? (The higher requirements.) Is it right to practice according to the higher requirements? Can the truth be divided into higher and lower truths, or older and newer truths? (No.) So when you practice the truth, what should you practice according to? What does it mean to practice the truth? (Handling matters according to the principles.) Handling matters according to the principles is the most important thing. Practicing the truth means practicing God’s words in different times, places, environments, and contexts; it is not about obstinately applying rules to things, it is about upholding the truth principles. That is what it means to practice the truth. So, there is simply no conflict between practicing God’s words and abiding by the requirements put forward by God. To put it more concretely, there is no conflict at all between honoring your parents and completing the commission and duty that God has given you. Which of these are God’s current words and requirements? You should consider this question first. God demands different things of different people; He has distinct requirements for them. Those who serve as leaders and workers have been called by God, so they must renounce, and they cannot stay with their parents, honoring them. They should accept God’s commission and renounce everything to follow Him. That is one kind of situation. Regular followers have not been called upon by God, so they can stay with their parents and honor them. There are no rewards for doing this, and they will not gain any blessings as a result of it, but if they do not show filial piety, then they lack humanity. In fact, honoring one’s parents is just a kind of responsibility, and it falls short of the practice of the truth. It is obeying God that is the practice of the truth, it is accepting God’s commission that is a manifestation of obedience to God, and it is those who renounce everything to do their duties who are followers of God. In sum, the most important task that lies before you is to perform your duty well. That is the practice of the truth, and it is a manifestation of obedience to God. So, what is the truth that people should primarily practice now? (Performing one’s duty.) That is right, loyally performing one’s duty is practicing the truth. If a person does not perform their duty sincerely, then they are just rendering service(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. What It Means to Pursue the Truth (4)). Through God’s words, I came to know His will and demands. Honor for one’s mother and father is a demand that God previously put forth and should be practiced. As long as it doesn’t influence one’s duty, caring for and spending time with one’s parents, and keeping them from worry and anxiety is every person’s responsibility as a son or daughter. Yet, this has nothing to do with practicing the truth and submitting to God. When my mom fell ill, it was my responsibility to take her to the hospital and buy her supplements, but I was just doing my filial duty, not practicing the truth. When God calls to and demands of people to perform their duty, even if the doing of that duty conflicts with one’s ability to be filial to one’s parents, as created beings we must submit to God and follow God’s way to fulfill our duties as created beings. This is our heavenly calling and God’s present will and demand. Having realized this, I knew how I should decide going forward. This is a crucial time for the great expansion of the kingdom gospel, and there is a lot of urgent work to be done. I had enjoyed so much of God’s supply of truth and God’s house had cultivated me for years, so of course I had to choose to do my duty to satisfy God. After all, my mom was not in great health but she could look after herself alright, and my uncle and sister could also help take care of her. I had to fulfill my duty—this was God’s hope and demand of me and a necessity for my pursuing of the truth and gaining of salvation. If I stayed at home, I would continue to be monitored and controlled by the police and would be completely incapable of performing my duty and walking the path of faith. If I did stay by my mom’s side in filiality, I would eventually become tied up in concerns of family and flesh and be unable to fulfill my duty. I would lose my function as a created being and lose my chance at being saved. I thought of the resolution I once made before God that I would give my entire life to God and expend myself for Him. I also thought of all that I had learned while doing my duty away from home, and how much my life had grown. This was much more meaningful and valuable than living in my flesh and family at home. God was guiding me on that path, a path He had set out for me. I was willing to continue walking it.

After that, I told my mother of my plan to leave home to perform my duty. My mother was a little reluctant to part, but she respected my decision. In the following days, when I wasn’t working, I’d lead my mom in eating and drinking God’s words and sharing fellowship. I hoped that she could emerge from her depression as soon as possible. A few days later, I got everything in place at home and set off. Soon after that, I dove right into my duty. Despite being quite busy, I still couldn’t help but miss my mom. When I thought of how sad and reluctant she looked when she saw me out of the house, I would get a pang of sorrow. At home, I could spend time with and chat with her so she wouldn’t be so lonely. Now that I was gone, how would she fare on her own? My mom was in poor health and I worried her worsening health would deepen her depression. If time went on and she couldn’t shake her depression, would she do something foolish? The more I thought, the more worried I became. If something were to happen to my mom, my relatives would certainly speak ill of me. Realizing this, I became a bit distracted and couldn’t focus on my duty. I knew that I should put everything into my duty while I was there, that fulfilling my duty to satisfy God was key, but I couldn’t shake that feeling of guilt and self-reproach toward my mom.

Later, I thought of how God’s words say: “Who can truly and completely expend themselves for Me and offer up their all for My sake? You are all half-hearted; your thoughts go around and around, thinking of home, of the outside world, of food and clothing. Despite the fact that you are here before Me, doing things for Me, deep down you are still thinking of your wife, children, and parents at home. Are all these things your property? Why do you not entrust them into My hands? Do you not have sufficient faith in Me? Or is it that you are afraid I will make inappropriate arrangements for you? Why do you always worry about the family of your flesh? You always pine for your loved ones!(The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Utterances of Christ in the Beginning, Chapter 59). Indeed, weren’t my mother’s health and the severity of her depression all in God’s hands? No amount of worry on my part would resolve her issues; I had to put everything in God’s hands. Later, I prayed to God: “O God, I know that whether or not my mother’s state will improve and if her health will deteriorate is all in Your hands. Please guide her out of depression and misery. If there is something she ought to learn from this, please guide her to reflect on herself and learn to experience Your work. I am willing to put everything in Your hands and submit to Your sovereignty and arrangements.” After prayer, I felt a bit more at ease. Later on, I wrote a letter to my mother, sharing everything I’d learned, and pointed out a few problems in her experience with the hope that she would reflect on and know herself.

Soon after, I received a letter from my mother. She said that not long after I left, the brothers and sisters arranged church life for her. What’s more, through God’s words she came to understand the negative emotions associated with her living in a state of depression. Her state also was much improved. I was so happy when I heard this news and gave thanks to God. Later, when I read God’s fellowship on the truth of how to properly view the responsibilities one fulfills toward their parents, I felt instantly relieved and gained a proper view and principle of practice. Almighty God says: “The parental relationship is the most difficult relationship for someone to handle emotionally, but in fact, it’s not entirely unmanageable. Only on the basis of understanding the truth can people treat this matter correctly and rationally. Do not start from the perspective of feelings, and do not start from the insights or the perspectives of worldly people. Instead, treat your parents in the proper manner according to God’s words. What role do parents actually play, what do children actually mean to their parents, what attitude should children have toward their parents, and how should people handle and resolve the relationship between parents and children? People should not view these things based on feelings, nor should they be influenced by any wrong ideas or prevailing sentiments; they should be approached correctly based on God’s words. If you fail to fulfill any of your responsibilities to your parents in the environment ordained by God, or if you do not play any role in their lives whatsoever, is that being unfilial? Will your conscience accuse you? Your neighbors, classmates, and relatives will all berate you and criticize you behind your back. They will call you an unfilial child, saying: ‘Your parents sacrificed so much for you, invested so much painstaking effort in you, and did so much for you ever since you were little, and you, being the ungrateful child you are, just disappear without a trace, not even sending word back that you’re safe. Not only do you not come back for New Year, you don’t even give a phone call or send a greeting to your parents.’ Every time you hear such words, your conscience bleeds and weeps, and you feel condemned. ‘Oh, they’re right.’ Your face flushes with heat, and your heart trembles as if being pricked by needles. Have you had these types of feelings? (Yes, before.) Are the neighbors and your relatives right in saying that you are unfilial? … First of all, most people choose to leave home to perform their duties in part because of the overarching objective circumstances, which necessitate them leaving their parents; they cannot stay by their parents’ side to take care of them and accompany them. It’s not that they willingly choose to leave their parents; this is the objective reason. For another thing, subjectively speaking, you go out to perform your duties not because you wanted to leave your parents and escape your responsibilities, but because of God’s calling. In order to cooperate with God’s work, accept His calling, and perform the duties of a created being, you had no choice but to leave your parents; you could not stay by their side to accompany them and take care of them. You didn’t leave them to avoid responsibilities, right? Leaving them to avoid your responsibilities and having to leave them to answer God’s calling and perform your duties—aren’t these of two different natures? (Yes.) In your heart, you do have emotional attachments and thoughts for your parents; your feelings are not empty. If objective circumstances allow, and you are able to stay by their side while also performing your duties, then you would be willing to stay by their side, regularly taking care of them and fulfilling your responsibilities. But because of objective circumstances, you must leave them; you cannot remain at their side. It’s not that you don’t want to fulfill your responsibilities as their child, but that you can’t. Isn’t this different in nature? (Yes.) If you left home to avoid being filial and fulfilling your responsibilities, that is unfilial and lacks humanity. Your parents raised you, but you can’t wait to spread your wings and quickly go off on your own. You don’t want to see your parents, and you don’t pay any regard when you hear about some difficulty they’ve encountered. Even if you have the means to help, you don’t; you just pretend not to hear and let others say whatever they want about you—you simply don’t want to fulfill your responsibilities. This is being unfilial. But is this the case now? (No.) Many people have left their counties, cities, provinces, or even their countries to perform their duties; they are already far away from their hometowns. Furthermore, it’s not convenient for them to stay in touch with their families for various reasons. Occasionally, they inquire about their parents’ current situation from people who came from the same hometown and feel relieved when they hear that their parents are still healthy and getting by okay. In fact, you are not unfilial; you haven’t reached the point of lacking humanity, where you don’t even want to care about your parents or fulfill your responsibilities toward them. It’s because of various objective reasons that you have to make this choice, so you’re not unfilial. These are the two reasons. And there’s one more, too: If your parents are not the type of people who particularly persecute you or obstruct your belief in God, if they support your belief in God, or if they are brothers and sisters who believe in God like you, members of God’s house themselves, then which of you doesn’t silently pray to God when thinking about your parents deep down? Which of you doesn’t entrust your parents—along with their health, safety, and all their life’s needs—to God’s hands? Entrusting your parents to God’s hands is the best way to show filial respect to them. You don’t hope they face all kinds of difficulties in their lives, and you don’t hope they live a bad life, eat poorly, or suffer poor health. Deep down in your heart, you certainly hope that God will protect them and keep them safe. If they are believers in God, you hope that they can perform their own duties and you also hope they can stand firm in their testimony. This is fulfilling one’s human responsibilities; people can only achieve this much with their own humanity. Moreover, what’s most important is that after years of believing in God and listening to so many truths, at the very least people have this little bit of understanding and comprehension: Man’s fate is determined by Heaven, man lives in the hands of God, and having God’s care and protection is far more important than the concerns, filial piety, or companionship of one’s children. Don’t you feel relieved that your parents are under God’s care and protection? You don’t need to worry about them. If you do worry, that means you do not trust God; your faith in Him is too small. If you are genuinely worried and concerned about your parents, then you should pray to God often, entrust them to God’s hands, and let God orchestrate and arrange everything. God rules over the fate of humankind and He rules over their every day and everything that happens to them, so what are you still worried about? You can’t even control your own life, you yourself have a ton of difficulties; what could you do to let your parents live happily every day? All you can do is entrust everything to God’s hands. If they are believers, ask God to lead them onto the right path so they can ultimately be saved. If they are not believers, let them walk whatever path they want. For parents that are kinder and have some humanity, you can pray to God to bless them so they can spend their remaining years in happiness. As for how God works, He has His arrangements, and people should submit to them. So, overall, people have an awareness in their conscience of the responsibilities they fulfill toward their parents. Regardless of the attitude toward one’s parents this awareness brings, whether it’s concern or choosing to be present by their side, in any case, people should not feel guilty or have a burdened conscience because they could not fulfill their responsibilities toward their parents due to being affected by objective circumstances. These issues, and others like them, should not become troubles in people’s life of belief in God; they should be let go. When it comes to these topics related to fulfilling responsibilities toward one’s parents, people should have these accurate understandings and should no longer feel restrained. For one thing, from the bottom of your heart you know that you are not unfilial, and you are not shirking or avoiding your responsibilities. For another thing, your parents are in God’s hands, so what is there still to worry about? Any worries one might have are superfluous. Each person will smoothly live according to God’s sovereignty and arrangements until the end, reaching the end of their path, without any deviation. So, people don’t need to worry themselves about this matter anymore. Whether you are filial, whether you have fulfilled your responsibilities toward your parents, or whether you should repay your parents’ kindness—these are not things you should think about; they are things you should let go of(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. How to Pursue the Truth (16)). Through God’s words I saw how when I left home to do my duty and was unable to fulfill my responsibility as a son, I felt guilty and worried that I’d be thought of as an unfilial son. I saw that I wasn’t thinking from the perspective of truth and through God’s words regarding how to properly view a son or daughter’s responsibility to their parents, but rather viewed such a responsibility according to the familial attachments of a worldly person. In reality, having the ability and chance to take care of your parents but failing to be filial and not staying by your parents’ side because you had received a calling from God to do your duty were two situations of completely different natures. If a son or daughter lives with their parents and has time to be filial to their parents, but are unwilling to fulfill their responsibility to their parents due to their own interests or desires, and don’t care for them when they get old and fall ill, then they lack humanity and have lost the conscience and reason that a normal human ought to have. We that believe in and follow God are willing to fulfill responsibilities to our parents, and take care of them to the best of our abilities when we are by their sides. However, due to the persecution of the Communist Party, many of us are unable to be at home and do our duty where we live. We are simply unable to live with our parents and practice filial piety. Also, sometimes due to the needs of the church’s work, we must leave our homes to fulfill our duties as created beings and are unable to stay at our parents’ sides in filiality. If circumstances permit, we also hope that we can call our parents often to see how they’re doing and let them know we’re fine, so that they don’t worry. We hold a certain amount of concern for our parents in our hearts. Sometimes we’ll also pray for our parents and put our family in God’s hands. We do our best to practice filial piety and fulfill our responsibilities in our own ways and according to our respective situations. This is not the same as what worldly people call “unfilial.” We are walking a different path than them, we believe in and follow God and walk the right path of life, and we seek to perform our duties and do God’s will. We shoulder a much more important responsibility and mission. Doing our duty is a matter of practicing according to God’s will and demands, of practicing the truth and submitting to God. This goes far, far beyond man’s standard of morality and conscience. When I realized all this, I felt much clearer and had the right view and attitude. I no longer feared being mocked by worldly people or being accused of being unfilial.

Through God’s fellowship, I also clearly saw that I lacked true faith in God. I failed to see that man’s mortality and fate are in God’s hands. As for our parents’ health, what illness they may face and how they live in their old age, none of this could be determined by mere people, it was all predetermined by God. I had to recognize God’s sovereignty in this matter and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. I thought of how when my mom fell ill, I had taken her all over to see doctors, and would schedule her for appointments whenever any specialists were available, but despite taking all that medicine, her situation not only failed to improve, it actually got worse. There was nothing I could do for my mom while at her side, I hadn’t been able to reduce her suffering in the slightest. When she became mired in depression and suffering, I fellowshiped with her quite a bit, sometimes guiding her and other times exposing her issues, but she was stuck in an improper state and didn’t want to rectify it, there was really nothing I could do despite my worries. Yet, when I left to perform my duty, my mother was actually able to gather normally, was willing to interact with brothers and sisters and her state improved. I saw that my small acts of filial piety weren’t really helpful. God’s protection and care were far more important than my staying at her side to look after her. I saw that parents’ well-being and happiness doesn’t depend on whether their children are filial to them, but depends rather on God’s sovereignty and predestination. The best way that we can practice as children is to pray for our parents and put them entirely in God’s hands. Just as God’s words say: “Entrusting your parents to God’s hands is the best way to show filial respect to them(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. How to Pursue the Truth (16)). When we have faith that God’s arrangements will all be suitable and submit to God’s sovereignty, we live a relaxed and carefree life.

I previously hadn’t grasped any of this, and always felt guilty about not being filial to my parents, always worried that others would call me unfilial and talk behind my back. As a result, while doing my duty, I always had concerns and felt constrained. Despite leaving home to perform my duty, my heart would often be filled with worry for my mom. I wasn’t able to put my heart completely into my duty, and as a result, I failed to grasp principles and skills and problems and deviations would often crop up in my work. Yet I didn’t feel guilty or remorseful for these problems, and instead would often feel guilty for not being filial to my mom. Didn’t I have my priorities backward? I was being rebellious toward God! It was due to God’s sovereignty and predestination that I had parents and life. I am first and foremost a created being, and secondly a son of my parents. Yet, I was always trying to satisfy my emotional needs, and avoid being reprimanded by worldly people, but I failed to fulfill the responsibility that God entrusted to me with my duty. Was this not a treacherous act? How could I claim to have a true conscience? I thought of a passage of God’s words: “You have preserved your reputation as a filial child, you have satisfied your emotional needs, your conscience has never been accused, and you’ve repaid your parents’ kindness, but there is one thing you have neglected and lost: You did not treat and handle all these matters according to God’s words, and you have lost the opportunity to perform your duty as a created being. What does this mean? It means that you have been filial to your parents but betrayed God. You demonstrated filial piety and satisfied the emotional needs of your parents’ flesh, but you rebelled against God. You would rather choose to be a filial child than perform your duties as a created being. This is the greatest disrespect to God. God will not say you are someone who obeys Him or possesses humanity just because you are a filial child, you haven’t disappointed your parents, you have a conscience, and you fulfill your responsibilities as a child. If you only satisfy the needs of your conscience and the emotional needs of your flesh, but do not accept God’s words or the truth as the basis and principles for treating or handling this matter, then you show the greatest disobedience to God(The Word, Vol. 6. On the Pursuit of the Truth I. How to Pursue the Truth (16)). The judgment of God’s words cut right to the quick. Indeed, even if I stayed with my mom and cared for her as best as I could, even if worldly people thought well of me and I became known as a highly filial son, before God, I still would have lost my function and duty as a created being, I would be lacking the slightest bit of conscience toward God, who had given me life and all things. As such, I would be among the most rebellious and resistant people toward God and would not be worthy of His salvation. Realizing this, I felt miserable. I saw that I had been corrupted too deeply by Satan, acted unconscientiously toward God, lacked the slightest bit of sincerity and totally lacked humanity! I realized my commission and mission, and stopped being constrained by this “unfilial” label. I was willing to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements, do what I was capable of in my duty, and was willing to put my mother in God’s hands, wishing for God to guide us to experience God’s work in our lives and fulfill our duties. Thanks be to God for allowing me to make the right choice and have the correct pursuit!

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