Kong Hee out on 22 August
The only test of a Christian is the test of love. The first commandment of our Lord Jesus is to love God; the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus has to tell disciples to “love one another,” implying that loving the world is easy, but loving fellow Christians is more difficult.
Nothing illustrates this challenge better than the way Christians treat ministers with whom they disagree, as compared to how they react to enemies of the Cross. Christians freely criticize Christian pastors like Kong Hee and Joseph Prince, who call Jesus their Lord, while they are careful not to condemn apostates. They would rather show love and pray for Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson, both of whom publicly recanted their faith in Jesus Christ.
Some Christians have got their love and condemnation reversed. Their reactions are contrary to what the Bible commands us. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). David said to Abishai when both of them had an opportunity to tear down Saul, “Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9). God Himself told us, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15). The Bible is replete with examples of harsh critics who touched God’s anointed and felt justified to accuse men of God like Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul–each of them fell sick, died untimely deaths, or met divine judgment. All of them had arguments and sounded reasonable at the time: Pharaoh, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, Miriam, King Saul, Shimei, King Jeroboam, Jezebel, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Elymas, etc. How many Biblical examples should be sufficient to serve us as warnings?
On the other hand, Paul sharply rebuked those who opposed the preaching of the Gospel. He condemned an enemy of the Cross named Alexander twice: “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” and “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works” (1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 4:14). The distinction was clear: you don’t publicly criticize any leader who preaches the Gospel; you do rebuke a leader who blasphemes.
Christians today do the opposite. It is as though modern Christians love their enemies better than their families. This was the point of my teaching on “What is the Unforgivable Sin and Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” which you should find enlightening.
I do not follow Kong Hee’s teaching or lifestyle, but I know three things.
First, he has not blasphemed the Lord nor recanted his faith in Christ.
Second, no one is qualified to criticize a Christian leader unless you have verified the information. You can rarely know what a person believes and does unless you talk to him directly, in person. Jesus laid down the Scriptural procedure for dealing with alleged offenders, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15).
“Alone” means privately. The Internet is not alone. I abide by this policy whenever I hear Christians criticize another minister. I ask them, “Where did you get that from? And have you verified with the person directly?” Nine times out of 10, the Christian gossiper shuts up. They cannot name their source, they believe anonymous hearsay, and they don’t bother to verify. I tell them that’s ungodly.
When I heard Singaporeans criticizing Pastor Kong Hee four years ago, I tried to meet him. Not being able to get a meeting, I met one of the defendants who was subsequently convicted. He maintained his innocence to this day. The facts of the case were clear to him: no individual profited financially, no money was ever lost to the church, and every cent borrowed was fully paid back. Yes, there was mishandling of funds, but does a criminal conviction with 8 years imprisonment seem proportional? Or were they being made examples of? The bankers lost billions of dollars in the last Global Financial Crisis, and none of them got jail time. Those details are what we call “water over the dam” now. My point is not whether the conviction is right or wrong; Singapore is known to have one of the best judicial systems in Asia. My point is that I went to listen to both sides, and recommend you do too, but very few Christians did or will.
Third, the Holy Spirit cares about Kong Hee. This week, I had a sense in my spirit that he must be coming out of jail. Sure enough, it happened on the 22nd of August—justice served!
I am glad that he is out of prison on good behaviour. He had been sentenced to 8 years in prison, reduced to 3 years and 6 months, of which he served 2 years and 4 months. The public humiliation, the separation from his family, the rancor showered on him by fellow Christians, and the near-universal agreement with government decisions in Singapore, all added to his punishment. He looked like he had aged 10 years in a couple of years.
Here I am in Australia, not having had thought about City Harvest in the natural. I have only visited a service once and have not ministered in their church. It was the farthest thing from my mind. Why would God tell an Australian pastor that a convicted Singaporean was coming out of jail this week? Because God loves him. God was so kind to release Kong Hee at this time, as today–the 23rd of August–is his 55th birthday.
Happy Birthday, Kong Hee!
I pray he goes on to do a lot of good using his Christian faith and experiences in suffering. The Bible states, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). I pray Singaporeans would be happy to have a productive citizen back, but I also wonder how many immature believers will keep wounding our own soldiers and sniping the saints with “friendly bullets”?
God will allow everyone He loves to suffer something unjust, to feel a bit of what Jesus felt when He went to the Cross. Was it a prophetic act that the only tape series I ever got from City Harvest by Pastor Kong Hee was about the Book of Job? Perhaps this was a Job moment, a Paul’s thorn in the flesh season, for the staff of the once biggest church in Singapore. Only they can say whether pride crept in. Only they can say for sure why they went through the process they went through. But even the Perfect One went through it. God the Father demoted His Son and let Him suffer injustice before raising Him from the dead.
Perhaps that is what Cardinal George Pell is going through right now, assuming he is innocent of the charges against him. I pray Australian Christians will treat him better than Singaporean Christians treated Kong Hee. Don’t expect the secular news to treat any Christian fairly. Don’t believe everything they say. To be fair people, we have to be led by the Spirit.
On the occasion of Kong Hee’s release, I encourage Christians to love all Christian ministers and stop loving apostates. That is what Paul modeled for us. If you are tempted to spread gossip about a Christian brother, you’d better be sure to speak to him first. If you will not, then why not love?
Love is the only test of the Christian faith. Loving God and neighbor, not stranger, is the highest command. Godly love is first expressed within the household of faith. You must love your brothers–even famous ones, rich ones, and fallen ones…or else God may one day say, “You never loved me. For just as you did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40, 1 John 4:20).
Or STREAM it now! “What is the Unforgivable Sin & Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?”