From the experiences of a teacher in China, we can learn something about our goal as Christians.
I found the story of Qu Xiao in a newspaper I bought in Guangzhou, China. I started reading it casually, and then found myself becoming absorbed as I began to realize that the story contained a lesson for all of us. Qu Xiao is a teacher, a psychologist and a delegate to China's National People's Congress. These days, he spends a lot of his time lecturing to young people about 22 years of suffering he experienced at the hands of people he only wanted to serve. It is a remarkable story. May I tell it to you? Qu Xiao was born in 1931 to poor but educated parents. As a teenager he experienced the tumultuous years of civil war and the Communist Revolution that shaped modern China. He became an enthusiastic supporter of the Revolution, and joined the Youth League. Qu Xiao decided to get a college education so that he could better serve his country and people. In 1956, while a student at Northeast China Normal School, he was married. He graduated in 1957, to begin his career as a teacher. But almost at once his troubles began. Only eight days after his graduation, China was convulsed in an anti-rightist campaign. Qu Xiao was branded as a rightist and thus an enemy of the people. He strongly denied it, claiming that his only desire was to serve as a teacher. But there was no arguing with the popular wave of antirightist sentiment. Qu Xiao was expelled from the Youth Corps and assigned to teach in a small, insignificant school.
Making the most of it
Instead of giving in to bitterness, Qu Xiao decided to make the most of his situation and threw himself into serving his new students. His students loved him, but the authorities became jealous of his success and accused him of not acting in the best interest of the Party. He was told he was not fit to be a teacher, and that he needed to be "reeducated through labor." Rather than waiting to be punished, Qu Xiao volunteered to go to a labor farm. He wanted to prove himself to the authorities so he could be allowed to get on with his teaching career. He thought he would be allowed to leave after ·a reasonable interval, but soon realized that he had sentenced himself to an indefinite period of "reform." For three and a half years he worked with a traveling labor brigade at back-breaking, menial tasks. Still, Qu Xiao remained positive, learning all he could. He knew that as a scholar and an intellectual, he had much to learn about the way the ordinary people lived. Qu Xiao had also begun to learn an even more important lesson: that whatever trials and problems one has in life, there is always something that can be learned, and some opportunity to serve others. Qu Xiao was released in October, I 961, for good behavior, but his troubles were far from over. When he had been labeled a rightist, his wife had asked for a divorce. She said that she and their newborn child wanted nothing more to do with him. Qu Xiao's son, now 4 years old, had been told that his father was a rightist who had opposed the Revolution, but was now dead. Qu Xiao was not to be allowed to see his little boy again. He also found that it wasn't easy to reenter society, even after he was supposedly "reformed." No school would accept him as a teacher, and neighbors treated him with contempt.
Hopes again dashed
Never flagging in his determination to teach, Qu Xiao decided to move to a remote border area of China, far from the main centers of population, where perhaps even an outcast would be needed. He found a job among the simple people, as a herdsman for horses. Using his skills, Qu Xiao began to show his new friends how they could train the horses to plow fields and pull carts, a small but significant step forward for them. At last he felt he was doing something constructive. One day, one of the leaders of the herdsmen came to him and said: "I understand you're a university graduate. Can you teach?" Qu Xiao explained that he could, but that he was not allowed to because he had been branded as a rightist. "Never mind," the leader of the herdsmen said. "We're far from the authorities here. Just be careful." So at last Qu Xiao became a teacher. The school was primitive — just a thatched shed with some boards nailed together to make desks, and a sheet of iron painted black for a blackboard. Qu Xiao had to teach five grades in these difficult circumstances, but he went to work with a will. He began to give the herdsmen's children their first opportunity for education. After some months, he learned that his students had averaged 98 percent in national examinations. But his hopes to teach were again to be dashed. The authorities found that he was teaching and decided that someone like him was unfit to work in a border area. He was transferred to teach on a labor reform farm. The rightist label dogged him still. But Qu Xiao was grateful for any opportunity and cheerfully accepted a minor role. While teaching at the labor reform farm, Qu Xiao met Yutan, the daughter of the head of the village production team. She was younger than Qu Xiao, beautiful and dedicated to her country. Qu Xiao felt that with his past he would never be allowed to marry her, but to his surprise, she agreed to become his wife. They were very poor — they had only about US$5 to their name. Qu Xiao bought his wife a new pair of shoes as a wedding present, and between them they bought a new pot for cooking rice. They moved into a crude shack for a home. Their only furniture was a bookshelf and some tables they would move together for a bed. But Qu Xiao loved his wife, and she loved him, and he was at last beginning to experience true happiness. The following year they had a healthy baby.
Branded a criminal again
But the good times didn't last long. The Cultural Revolution that convulsed China for 10 years had begun. As an intellectual, Qu Xiao was again branded an enemy of the people. His house was ransacked and his domestic bliss shattered. Day after day he was dragged before the authorities. He was beaten and shouted at, until finally it was decided he was an active counterrevolutionary. Qu Xiao was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Realizing that he now had no future to offer his young wife and child, he told them, with a sinking heart: "We must get a divorce. You're only 29, and it'll be 20 years before we can be together again. Don't cut yourself off from life because of me." She refused and promised to wait for him. But he insisted that she must rebuild her life for herself and her child without him. "Marry an honest peasant. That's what I want you to do," he said, and they parted in tears. He did not know until years later that even though his wife did not want to go through with the divorce, it was forced on her by the authorities. She and the child were sent to another area. The pressure of having a "counterrevolutionary" husband was so great that Yutan and the child fell seriously ill. Today the Chinese people recognize that the Cultural Revolution was a terrible mistake, and they are determined that nothing like it will ever happen again. Qu Xiao was just one of millions whose lives were disrupted by the upheavals. But unlike some people, Qu Xiao never let bitterness and resentment get the better of him. Even though he was suffering from injustices, his inner feelings of love for his people never changed. He knew that as an educated person he had a responsibility, and he believed that sooner or later his country would emerge from turmoil. Then it would need him again.
Success at last
Qu Xiao was right. Eventually the Cultural Revolution ran its course and he was released. As he had predicted, the country was now struggling to rebuild. A whole generation had been wasted, and Qu Xiao was determined
Even though people may not appreciate what we are doing now as Christians, we must think of them and their future. One day, they will need us.
to do all he could to repair the damage. Once again he became a teacher. In 1979 the sentence of "counterrevolutionary" was overturned. Later he received notice that the verdict of "rightist" given in 1957 was found to be completely false. He was restored as a member of the Youth Corps in good standing — at the age of 48! He was also told that sending him to the education labor reform school in 1958 had been a mistake, and the penalty had been rescinded. His record was now clear. In order to make amends, the authorities asked him if he had any requests. Requests! He had suffered for 22 years. His efforts to serve the people had been spurned. He had been put in prison twice, and two marriages had been ruined. He had been misrepresented and vilified. Qu Xiao could have demanded revenge and adequate compensation for the years of wretchedness. He didn't. He asked only to be allowed to continue to serve his people as an educator. Qu Xiao's story has a happy ending. He went back to his work. His second wife, Yulan, had been forced to divorce him and marry an old peasant, but this man had since died. Now Qu Xiao was able to be reunited with the woman and child he loved. He was also reunited with the son of his first wife, the little boy who had been told he was dead. His first son was now a grown man and married, and rejoiced to meet his long-lost father. Today, with the years of tribulation behind him, Qu Xiao often lectures on his experiences to the young people of China. He encourages his people to forget the mistakes of the past and not bear grudges against those who misused them. He tells all who will listen to look to the future. He encourages educated people to use their education to serve.
A lesson for us
I'm glad I found Qu Xiao's story. Can we who are Christians learn a lesson from him? A real Christian is going to have problems in this life, because this world does not like Jesus Christ or His ways. "A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you," Jesus warned (John 15:20). "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution," wrote Paul (II Timothy 3:12). Persecution is hard to take, particularly if you are trying to help and serve those who are persecuting you. It is easy to resent your persecutors, and it is human to want to get back at them. It is tempting to gloat over the fact that when the Kingdom of God is established, we Christians will receive our reward, while those who persecute us now will be punished — and, we think, it serves them right! But if that is what we think, we're missing the point. A true Christian must use the opportunities of this life to educate himself, but not simply for his own sake. God is not trying to save this world now. He is calling only a few to repentance at this time. They are not chosen because they are special or God's little pets or because they are more innately righteous than others. If you understand the truth of God, you have a massive responsibility. You must struggle to learn all you can now so that you will be ready for the future. That future will not be spent in sanctimonious isolation in heaven, but on this earth, working with Jesus Christ, so that others may also have salvation. You must never lose sight of this. Even though this world may not appreciate what you are doing with your life, even though you may receive condemnation and ridicule, even though opportunities may be denied you and your best efforts often go unrewarded and unappreciated, you must never allow yourself to get into an attitude of bitterness and resentment toward those who persecute you. Jesus told us we must love our enemies, try to do good to those who persecute us and pray for those who hurt us (Matthew 5:44). We must think of them and their future. One day, they will need us. We must never lose sight of the responsibility of an educated person to be willing to teach others what he knows. We can't do this if we are filled with bitterness, resentment and a spirit of revenge. Qu Xiao never lost sight of his goal to teach and help others grow. He was not a Christian, but for 22 years he was driven by a love of his country and people to serve them, no matter what they did to him. How much more should we, who are led by the Spirit of God?