Navigating Chinese Markets
When I first moved to China, I heard about how locals would try to take advantage of our lack of knowledge about the culture and pricing. Expats would talk about the foreigner pricing, which was much higher than the locals. Therefore every time I went to the market to buy my family’s groceries, I would be on edge expecting the need to fight the system.
The longer I have been here the less I feel this tension. Some of it could be a greater awareness of the culture and how things should be priced. However I have also found that as I have continued to go back to the same merchants, the more I have felt there was not these attempts of taking advantage of the foreigner. Many of the merchants actually seemed to go out of there way to help me. With the fear abated, market runs became less intimidating and less stressful.
Allowing Fear to Overcome Us
As I have thought about this, I felt a correlation with other areas of life. Many of us don’t feel that others are generally out to help us. We live our lives on guard ready for a fight. When you buy a car, you assume that the salesman will throw in random charges to cheat you. If you happen to get in a wreck, you fear the other person will feign a problem to get more from your insurance. At work you assume that if you don’t call attention to your success, you will be overlooked for the next raise. We live life in reaction to the fears we have about what might happen. We don’t live out of faith because we don’t rely on God to protect us.
Instead of it being better for us who believe, we actually can be much worse. We are taught this need to be perfect, and therefore we feel others need to see us as perfect or we will ruin our witness. There is a feeling that goes with it that when I fail at being perfect, I am a failure. I no longer can be used by God. Perfection no longer becomes a goal; it becomes an obsession.
We end up living most of our lives out of fear, and it steals what we are capable of if we would only live by faith. We are afraid to let others see our mistakes or know we have areas we need to grow. Instead of allowing others to help us develop and grow, we live dual lives. There is one life where we long to follow God and confess our mistakes to Him, and there is the other one which other people see.
Creating a Place Where Faith Can Live
We need a place where we can tell other people our failings, our fears, and know that we will be received. However, we not only need to correct our thinking about this, others also need a renewed mind about it. So often when people confess their sins, we want to tell them to stop doing it or at least tell them how we feel they can stop doing it. This is not what we are told to do in James. We are to pray because the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:15-16). Our prayers are powerful because of our righteousness. Our righteousness is not based on what we have done, but on our faith. Faith is determined by what we are looking at, or better yet, who we are looking at. Therefore our prayers are powerful by not by focusing on people’s sin, but on calling out who God says they are.
Let us develop communities of believers that can hear the failings of others but still choose to believe what God calls them to be. May our prayers be powerful because we are not trying to fix others, but instead we are pouring in all that God says is true about them to the point everything contrary can no longer fit. Let us be so encouraging of one another that there is no hint of judgement or condemnation. Then we can be a people that overcomes our fears and can freely live out of faith.