Monday, May 28, 2012

Fool me Once, Fool me Twice

Today in my Chinese class I learned a new phrase:

(zai yi zai er bu zai san)

It means, "Once again, twice again, but not three times again!"

(Another similar phrase I learned was 事不过三 (shi bu guo san) -- "Anything up to three times" or "You only get two chances.")

We were talking about the concept of 忍 (ren), which means "tolerance" or "forbearance."  My teacher said that we should tolerate other people, but ren has a limit.  If someone keeps wronging you, you only have to give them so many chances.  "Once again, twice again, but not three times again!"

It reminded me of the story where Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother who sins against him.  "Seven times?" he asks.  Jesus answers, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21-22)

When I tried explaining this to my teacher, I used the word ge ge (older brother) and she was like, "Well, of course you have to forgive your family unlimited times.  But for people outside your family, like strangers or enemies, then there is a limit."

So I told her Jesus didn't mean "older brother." He just meant anyone.

She thought for a minute and said, "Ah, this is how Western culture is different from Chinese culture."

But I told her it's not our culture.  It's not anyone's culture to tolerate or forgive without limit.  It's only through Jesus.

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