As we walked into the Taichung Yuan Bao Temple, all of our senses were immediately engaged. Every wall and ceiling was covered in detailed artwork, and by the rear walls there was a large gold idol of Bao An, the “god of healing.”
The smell of incense sticks burning was combined with the sound of wooden blocks landing on the tiled floor, as worshippers cast lots to find the will of the god in answer to their questions. Taiwanese people come to this temple whenever they have a crisis in their lives or when they need help or an answer to some difficulty. After two hours with a young tour guide, we had explored the five-story temple and needed a break.
Can you do enough good?
The next day we returned with the aim of asking the temple workers different types of questions. We wanted to find out how Taiwanese folk religion actually worked in people’s lives. Again, we were welcomed warmly, this time by three of the temple staff who happily answered our questions.
After asking whether the gods loved people, it became apparent that this was a foreign concept to them. The relationship was more functional, an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” approach. If you did enough good, you might go to a good place after death, but you go to hell if you do bad.
However, no one knows who decides. The final answer from our guides was that it is entirely subjective. If the worshipper feels in their heart that they will be okay, then they’ll be okay. Therefore, people come to the temple if they feel guilt or shame so they can feel better again.
Finding the answers
I came away from these temple visits extremely encouraged for seven key reasons:
• Jesus is the God who loves people.
• He does things out of compassion for others even if he receives nothing in return. He provides certainty of eternal life.
• He removes the fear of death and provides freedom from hell.
• He isn’t contained in a certain place or temple, but is Lord over all places and people.
• He enters into human suffering and gives his Spirit to live inside them.
• He is also a God who speaks and reveals truth.
Jesus came to show us God’s love and to set people free. This is the message that Taiwanese people are hungry for and need to hear. And not only to hear, but see demonstrated from the people of Jesus who are filled with his Holy Spirit.