By Fang Li
Lately I’d thought I had entered a harmonious partnership. My partner and I could discuss anything, sometimes I even asked him to point out my shortcomings, and we never fought, so I thought we had achieved a harmonious partnership. But as the facts revealed, a truly harmonious partnership wasn’t anything like I’d assumed.
One day at a meeting, my partner pointed out some of my shortcomings in front of our superior, saying I was arrogant, unaccepting of the truth, controlling, overbearing…. Hearing him say that made me very angry, and I thought: “Yesterday I asked you if you had any opinions of me, you said no, but now, in front of our superior, you say so much! That’s so insincere!” I thought my partner and I had a peaceful relationship, but he had so many views about me, which proved that there were still misunderstandings between us and that our relationship was anything but peaceful. Faced with the facts, I couldn’t help but again go over my own behavior in the partnership: At gatherings, even though my brother also fellowshiped, he spoke little, because I spoke for most of the meeting and barely gave him a chance to talk; at work we did indeed discuss whatever problems came up, but when our opinions differed, I always stuck to my own views and denied his, and the issues were resolved when my brother simply stopped arguing; from the outside there were no disputes or conflicts between us, but inside it always felt like there was a barrier between us, something that stopped us from being completely open. That was when I realized that while the two of us appeared to be partners working together, I was actually giving all the orders, and he never got the chance to truly fulfill his duties. I thought our relationship was that of mutually complementary and equal partners, but it was actually that of the leader and the led. The facts revealed to me that what I thought of as a harmonious partnership was only a set of superficial practices. So, what is a truly harmonious partnership? I looked for answers to my question in God’s word, and came upon these words, “You who lead have heard much truth and understood much of service. If those of you coordinating in the pastoral work of the church don’t learn from each other, fellowship with each other, and complement each other, how will you learn your lessons? When faced with an issue, you should fellowship with each other to achieve its benefits in your lives. You decide all things after careful fellowship, which is truly being responsible for and loyal to the church. You go out to the churches, then gather together and fellowship about any problems you’ve discovered or trouble in your work, and share your enlightenment and illumination, which is a practice inseparable from service. To aid in God’s work, benefit the church, and uplift all your brothers and sisters, you must achieve harmony in your partnership, you must help each other, and must be mutually supportive, which makes your work more effective, and therefore allows you to show consideration to God’s will. This is the hallmark of a true partnership, and of those who have a real entry”. After carefully weighing God’s words, my heart suddenly understood. A true partnership means that the partners place the work of the church first; for the interests of the church and the of the brothers and sisters, they can fellowship with each other and complement each other’s weaknesses, so that better results can be achieved in their work; they hold no misunderstandings or prejudices against each other and maintain no difference in status. Comparing my own behavior to that, I felt shame and regret beyond words. Looking back on my behavior, I realized I never considered the church’s interest, I always put myself first, I led by leaning on my status and meticulously tended my own reputation and position, and I feared only that others would think little of me or look down upon me, and my fellowship with my brothers and sisters was not complementary or conducted from a place of equality, so it never achieved the purpose of common, mutually supportive entry into God’s word. While on the surface my partner and I appeared to be discussing how to do our work, in my heart I didn’t accept his ideas, and in the end I went with my own ideas rather than considering what would be best for the work of the church; even though sometimes I asked him to point out my shortcomings, rather than accept them, I always argued, made justifications, and pleaded for myself, which put constraints on him and made him too afraid to speak to me openly and unwilling to bring up my shortcomings again, which led to misunderstandings between us and cost us the ability to complete the church’s work with one will. Among my brothers and sisters I behaved with even more arrogance and superiority, always assuming that I was their leader because my greater understanding of the truth qualified me to lead them. With them, I showed absolutely no humbleness or true seeking, instead considering myself to be the master of truth and insisting that everyone listen to me. … That was when I realized that my partnership in service had none of the substance of partnership, or in even more serious terms, I was engaging in despotism and dictatorship. Behaving like that as a leader and partner is no different than how the great red dragon maintains its grip on power! The great red dragon puts despotism into practice, insisting on final authority in all things and afraid to listen to the voice of the masses or govern through political principles different from its own. And I, with the little status I have today, want to be in charge of the limited territory I control. If one day I hold power, how will I be any different than the great red dragon? Thinking of all this, I suddenly felt afraid. Continuing like this would be far too dangerous, and if I didn’t change, my end would be the same as the great red dragon’s—punished by God.
After realizing all of this, I no longer held any views against my brother. Instead, I was grateful to God for helping me know myself in such circumstances and for showing me the danger in myself. Afterward, when I was partnered with my brothers and sisters, I learned to lower myself, have the heart to care for God’s will and be responsible in my work, and listen more to the opinions of others, and after some time, I realized that this type of practice not only gave me a more complete and thorough understanding of the truth, it also brought me closer to my brothers and sisters and allowed us to share more openly. And with these kinds of fruits to show, I finally understood how good it can be doing partner service according to God’s requirements!
I am grateful for this enlightenment from God, which not only helped me understand a truly harmonious partnership, but more so helped me see the hidden dangers in my own service with my partner, and showed me that when corrupt takes power, the result is the same as the great red dragon. I hope I can eliminate the poisons of the great red dragon in me, enter into true partnership service, and finally become one who serves God who is compatible with God’s heart.