The reading of Chinua Achebe’s novel No Longer at Ease leads me think of my country and some American missionaries in my country. I was led to Christ by American missionaries. They came to my university and made friends with a lot of Chinese students. I was one of those who were willing to study Bible with them and prayed to accept Jesus Christ as savior. I still remember a serious talk between me and one American brother regarding pirated software. He was persuading me to stop using pirated software, which is very common in China and it costs only 1 dollar to buy a CD, from music to enterprise level database. I agree that using pirated software is absolutely not the right thing to do. I also feel guilty while doing so, but if stop doing that I will have no software to use because the legal copies are too expensive comparing to Chinese average income, moreover, everyone is using that and if I don’t use, I will fall behind my class.
Several years later, as a manager working in Microsoft, my salary can afford me to buying legal software. But many of my friends are still using illegal copies because their salaries are still quite low. It is still hard for me to tell them it’s not the right thing to do because I’m no longer in their situation. But I think it’s already easier than letting the Americans to tell.
Mr. Green in the novel is like most foreigners in China. They are usually in the senior executive position of company or mission organization. As American citizen, they don’t need to interact with local government to send their kids to public school, nor do they go to local public hospital. They don’t understand why we struggle in bribery, giving money privately to doctors in order to get a better operation, etc. Because they are not in the same world as we do, just like Mr. Green and Obi in the novel, like that American brother and me in the college.
Mediating what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” I think Paul does not mean be a weak person and sins against God, nor does he simply mean living among the weak person just like missionaries coming to China. He wants to live in their situation and guide them out of the situation. This is difficult to cross-cultural ministry because in many cases, alien people do not need to live in the social and political structure of local people. But Paul’s ministry and Mr. Okonkwo’s tragedy both reminded me the importance of “in the world but not of the world.”
By the way, I’m very thankful for that American brother. Though I can’t do what he asked at that time, he corrected my view. Once I had the income I started to buy genuine software. And when I teach other brothers, it makes them not thinking it’s too difficult or impossible.