China in your hand?

Yesterday’s bloggage reminded me of an incident that took place while I was travelling through China. I was part of a small international group, led by a lovely American lady who knew China (and the languages) very well. She also knew a lot about Chinese culture and traditions. And she got to know me and my sense of humour as we travelled through the country, which may still be causing her nightmares!

Image DetailThe incident in question happened as we were travelling on an internal flight. As I went through the free-standing metal detecting door-frame at the airport my belt buckle caused the alarm to sound. I assume that there is an official policy whereby equality of gender is a value that is more important than responding to the sensitivities of travellers as a very polite young lady official came across and gestured to me to stand still while she patted me down to make sure that I was not carrying anything I should not be. It was not indiscreet, invasive or any more inappropriate than when I have been patted down by male officials at airports, but our team leader was furious that my male personal space had been violated by this young woman. She started to object and was asking for the Supervisor to be called in order that she could lodge a complaint about this.

Maybe it was because I did not want to cause a scene.

Maybe it was because I did not feel that my male personal space I had been violated.

Maybe it was because I was in a mischievous mood.

But I stopped our leader in mid flow with a sentence that left her shocked and open-mouthed:

“Actually, I rather enjoyed it. I’m going around again!”

She looked at me with alarm in her eyes, and then I think she saw the sparkle of mischief in my eyes, the grin on my face and realised that I was not upset.

She laughed.

The young official laughed.

I was waved through. No supervisors were needed, no reprimands were issued.

As I reflect now on that incident I wonder if I was unfair to our leader. She was only doing what she thought was right and appropriate. She was standing up for me because she thought it had been inappropriate. But to me the more important thing was that this young lady, who was only doing her job, should not have got into trouble because our cultural values clashed with the Chinese ones within which she operated.

Today I am preparing a sermon on the end of Luke 7, where a woman seemed to violate Jesus’ male personal space by anointing his feet with her tears and with oil and by wiping them with her hair. Those watching were outraged and would have called the supervisor, had there been one, in a tirade of self-righteous indignation. But Jesus’ values were different. He wanted her to know forgiveness and God’s love and grace, and these over-rode doing what was considered decent.

Are there ways in which today we should allow God’s values of love, grace and forgiveness to over-ride rights, traditions or even ‘decency’?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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