Author Archive
Charlene Ong

Beit Av – My Father’s House

Not too long ago, Pastor Daniel Wee spoke about Beit Av – My Father’s House.  In Matthew 21:13, Jesus quotes scripture that says, “My house will be called a house of prayer”. This house, or Beit Av, refers to the church. Pastor Daniel exhorted us to see the church as Beit Av – a community of love, kindness, and mercy; a family marked by loyalty.

In the world today, young people use social media to upkeep a certain public image. Social media has become a go-to platform to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Social media posts revolve around showing off the close relationships that we have and broadcasting the “happening” lives that we live. At the same time, we put down the “frenemies” – friends who have turned into enemies – or the “haters” – people who just don’t like our faces, are jealous of us, or are hostile toward us. In frenemy or hater-bashing posts, we refer to the “true friends” whom we have, and declare that we don’t need these frenemies or haters in our lives.

This pattern of how the world rejects the people who reject us, and hates those who hate us stands in sharp contrast to the way in which disciples of Christ are called to conduct our relationships. Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:44-45).” Love, as 1 Corinthians 13 instructs us, “is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Unfortunately, the way Christians relate to the church today reveals a lack of understanding of Beit Av. Many hop from church to church, attend services without intentionally connecting and building relationships with others. Many of us are guilty of being selective about whom we choose to befriend, preferring people who are like us in manner, perspectives, and social economic status. When we have conflicts, how often do we see ourselves respond lovingly to the other party? How often have we refused to reconcile out of pride or show mercy? In many ways we, the church, have reproduced the pattern of the world.

Personally, God has used relationships in the church to disciple me. When I was 17, a pastor chose to invest in my life in a way that I had never known before. He fathered me, was patient with me in my immaturity and lack of understanding, and gave me opportunities to serve even when I had my reservations. He was the person God used to speak His forgiveness and restoration over me. Till today, this pastor continues to walk with me through seasons of darkness and failure. It is a safe and nurturing relationship that spurs me on to live practically as a disciple of Jesus.

Conversely, I have also experienced communities and relationships in the church that have disappointed and hurt me. I am still learning that it is important to reconcile instead of just move on in life. I am learning to persevere in love, even when I don’t get the response I am hoping for. In short, I am learning what it means to live in Beit Av – in the community that is my Father’s house – one in which I must be active in showing loyalty to others.

Should any of us be hurt by community, remember that Jesus Christ himself was mocked and crucified by the people He came to save. Remember that Christ showed us the full extent of His love, by washing the feet of disciples who were soon to abandon and disown Him (John 13). Remember that we are called to love as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:24). Embark on a healing journey with God, and allow Him to minister to your hurts and disappointments. Seek advice from trusted people on how to re-establish communications and relationships that have broken down. Reconcile with those who have hurt you, or those who you have hurt, and find closure.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35).

Let the desire of the church be to make this community a Beit Av; a community that brings glory to God because we are of Christ and not of the world.

“We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see…” (C. S. Lewis). Writing is Charlene’s endeavour to enter into the beauty she sees, to connect dots that may help us see more clearly the face of God.

Love & Marriage

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…”

– Ephesians 5:25 –

I marched into marriage on 31 October 2015, armed with the belief that my husband should love me just as Christ did.

Just as Christ did… What a high calling!

The love of Christ for me is immense – He forgave me of all my sin and hypocrisy, and restored me to a place where I was once again able to worship God freely, without the weight of sin standing as a wall between me and God. He walked with me through various heartaches and gave me assurance of His faithfulness. He was patient with my character flaws, and never once condemned me for them, but gently reminded me that I was not to be flippant about changing and becoming a better person. Christ is the epitome of perfect and loving faithfulness to me.

And my husband was not. Or so I thought.

I found myself constantly picking on everything that he did or didn’t do, and measuring it against what I thought the perfect, sensitive, husband and leader of the household should be like. I wondered why he couldn’t always be gentle and kind with his words and actions. I was embittered by his dedication to serving others at work and in church, seeing it as costing me his time and affection. I was fearful that I wouldn’t have enough of his love. That left me constantly grasping for more, and never satisfied.

Of course, this lack of peace in my heart took its toll on us as a newly wedded couple. But I thank the Lord that He saw us through that, and used that season to mature my perspectives.

I learnt that I needed to trust that my husband loved me, just that he didn’t always love me in exactly the way I wanted to be loved. I learnt to give him the benefit of the doubt that his intentions were good, instead of being prejudiced and suspicious of him.

I learnt that whatever ideals I had of marriage needed to negotiated between the two of us, not just insisted upon and imposed on the other. I needed to bear in mind that if I believed in, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…”, then I should also believe in, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).

Finally, I learnt to not make my husband’s love an idol, but to be satisfied in God’s love so that I wouldn’t substitute my husband’s love for God’s.

This first year of marriage has not been the easiest, but it has been a place of great encounter with God.

If the flapping of a butterfly’s wings a few weeks earlier can alter the formation and trajectory of a hurricane, Charlene who finds joy in being a special needs teacher, hopes to flex the power of writing to make a difference in the lives of readers.