A Lasting Tribute
The 23rd of March 2015 and the week that followed marked an unprecedented series of events in Singapore which will never be repeated, ever – the passing of our nation’s Founding Father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and the accompanying proceedings.
Now that the tears have flowed, the grey skies cleared and the tributes duly given, it is time to move on. Someone remarked, if Mr. Lee could have a say on the affairs surrounding his death and funeral, he might have told us to do away with the sentimentality and get back to building a better Singapore. However, the truth of the matter is, those rites of passing were vitally important for closure – both emotionally and psychologically. What is imperative though is the fact that as a nation, we need to keep moving forward.
Throughout that entire week, countless compliments were lavished upon Mr. Lee. Apart from his accolades, it is fitting to also examine the qualities and characteristics that made Mr. Lee Kuan Yew such a revered leader of a man. He lived an exemplary life, worthy of our contemplative Christian retrospection.
To Have A Vision
To begin with, Mr. Lee had a vision and was by inference, a visionary. For example, he could see in his mind’s eye that Singapore would become a metropolis within 10 years of his proclamation. More importantly, he could anticipate the steps needed to achieve that.
Without the vision of a transformed Singapore we would have been without direction. We can parallel this quality with our understanding of Proverbs 29:18 (NASB): “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law”. If Mr. Lee did not point the way for his team, chaos would inevitably ensue and consequently the team leading the nation would be without control (the Holman Christian Standard Bible used the phrase “the people run wild”). How that scenario of wildness could have panned out is unthinkable.
What’s our vision? Do we have one?
To Share Knowledge
Mr. Lee had knowledge. As one of his grandsons has said, his grandfather is compelling because he makes the listener want to listen to him. His presentations are based on well-researched information and as PM Lee and other parliamentary colleagues have emphasized, Mr. Lee had persuasive powers not based on eloquence but based on his thoroughly thought-out convictions.
While detractors have maligned him as prideful, the phrase ‘knowledge puffs up’ does not apply to him because he releases that knowledge. Knowledge puffs up when it is an end in itself. However, Mr. Lee’s cabinet ministers have attested to the fact that he shared worthwhile articles, life experience and encouraged others to read and think for themselves.
Have we been knowledge hoarders, biblical or otherwise and letting it puff us up?
To Have Courage In Adversity
Mr. Lee also had the courage to face difficulties and adversaries. He reiterated in no uncertain terms that “whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him”. He also declared that as long as he was in charge; no one would be allowed to take down what he has built up. Analogous to that, we read in Deuteronomy 31:6-7 that we are to “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them; for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you”.
It is unquestionable that Mr. Lee led his team with sheer grit and doggedness during tumultuous times. It was this courage in adversity that played a significant part in helping them conquer the odds and achieve the dream of a successful Singapore.
Which of our life’s challenges would do well with a dousing of courageousness and tenacity?
To Make Disciples
Mr. Lee was an intentional disciple-maker. We just have to look at the evolving Cabinet he had congregated over the years to see that truth. He had succession plans way before his retirement as PM, and countless have benefitted from his guidance, advice, teaching, rebuke and questions.
Jesus was the supreme intentional disciple-maker. Jesus trained and taught, lived and modeled for his disciples beyond just the 12. Jesus in all will and purpose knew that His mission on earth required disciples to carry on the work. Similarly, Mr. Lee, realized that for the Singapore story and legacy to perpetuate, he must multiply himself.
Have we given of ourselves and multiplied ourselves? To make things a reality, chance is not a good bet. Intentionality is the way forward.
To Love Deeply
Mr. Lee loved and cherished his wife deeply. Reports showed that he made it a point to be by his bedridden wife’s side every evening, reading to her and telling her about the day’s events and his work. It tired him such that he had to take to meditation to help cope with the stress. Undoubtedly from having to deal with world affairs at work and then at home, ‘ministering’ to his wife.
PM Lee also revealed that his father took his mother’s input seriously and painted the picture of a family that he could reminisce with fondness. Another point from PM Lee worthy of mention was the fact that despite his mother mostly running the home front, his father was still the head of the home. This was evident in reports that Mrs. Lee, though every bit as intelligent and capable as her husband, chose to stay out of the limelight and in her own vernacular, recounted partly in jest that as a good Asian wife, she walked 2 steps behind him. Of course it is understood that her point was that of respect.
In Ephesians 5:25 we are taught, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her”. In verse 23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body”. Mr. Lee loved his wife dearly and gave himself for her to the detriment of his health as he also gave his life in service to our nation. As he himself had said, the most important things to him were his family and his country. Correspondingly, he was head at home and also head of the nation.
Self-check: how have I been to my spouse? Have I kept in line with God’s will, plans and example?
Just A Man
Having said all this, we are reminded that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is no god. None of us who are sane will have the audacity to claim perfection, not even Mr. Lee himself who acknowledged that he has made some bad mistakes. I can think of no better quote to sum this all up than the following from the writer who wrote in the weekend papers:
“A nation stands humbled by such a lifetime of courage and dedication. The people of Singapore owe a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid, only honored”
This statement reminds me of what was said of Jesus:
“He came to pay a debt He didn’t owe and we owe a debt we can never pay”
In both instances, we can do justice to their lives by honoring them. It has been discussed on social media that while we can honor Mr. Lee by paying tribute in his death, the true tribute is expressed when we as a nation of citizens uphold all that he has done and more.
To Pay A Lasting Tribute
Likewise, to truly honor our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that it is worthless to just pay lip service. The Lord Himself says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21-23). It is poignant to remind ourselves that any true and laudable tribute to our Lord is not expressed just by saying, ‘Lord I love you’ but it is by following His example, working with fellow disciples to establish His will and kingdom on earth.
PM Lee has said that we are lucky to have Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Bill Clinton alluded to the point that Mr. Lee is not only a gift to the nation but to the world. What a man we have in Lee Kuan Yew, all the battles and labor he bore. If that is true, then what more of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Thank you Mr. Lee…THANK YOU JESUS.
Andrew David Wong is an Occupational Therapist by profession. He serves in both the Men’s & Equipping MInistries in church. Andrew is married to Joanna and they have two beautiful children, Liesl & Benedict.