Why Grace Is Hard for Me as an Asian American

Jeremy Yong | November 17, 2016

A gift given means a gift must be repaid. That’s what my Chinese culture taught me. For my family, this meant mental tallies of who gave what on which occasion, so that when the time came the Yong family would be able to return a gift of equal or greater value. Welcome to the principle of reciprocation.

But what does one do when a gift cannot be repaid? More specifically, what do Christians do when they’re in a position of eternal indebtedness, incapable of reciprocating God’s gift of grace in Christ?

Many Asian-American Christians operate under the assumption that God’s gift toward them must be reciprocated, so as to not be trapped in God’s debt. Unfortunately, in the circles of Asian-American Christianity I grew up in, laboring under the law of reciprocity toward God ended up nullifying his grace instead of helping people embrace it.

Those of us of Asian descent must wield biblical truths to battle the cultural instinct of repaying God for his salvation, and to more deeply appreciate his infinite grace. 

Principle of Reciprocity

My family’s social dynamics, both American and Chinese, generally reflected principles found in Confucian-influenced worldviews. The influence of the philosopher Confucius (551–479 BC) on the Chinese people and other Asian cultures…

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