A Case of Mistaken Identity

mRecent memory for popular culture saw a resurgence of Hugo’s Les Misérables as the 2012 film after the musical caught everyone’s attention. Javert, a prison guard, almost always refers to Jean Valjean as 24601 to remind him of the crime he once committed. In UBF we are always remembered by what kind of sinner we were. We must be thankful and remain in a state of eternal gratitude to our shepherds for introducing us to Jesus and exposing our dirty pasts. This reminder also suggests that even though we have been forgiven by Christ no less, that we must surrender ourselves to eternal servitude to UBF.

We find that it becomes a snare whenever we challenge the system. Such a challenge is met with a reminder of who we were and what that means. UBF shepherds have this awkward tendency to remind a student of their weaknesses, including what had been identified as their unique and one-of-a-kind life sin problem. So, the person is no longer a new creation in Christ Jesus – but rather the static sinner that their shepherd had once upon a time found on campus. Who are we as Christians when we cannot help our brothers/sisters to permanently put their life of sin behind them? Why do some of us insist on reminding students about their sin problem in order to maintain control?

A Simple Reflection on Les Misérables

Jean Valjean, a convict released on parole after 19 years of serving out his sentence for stealing bread, begins a new life and journey as he intimately comes to know God. His life of freedom during parole carries on his criminal mentality. However the grace of a Bishop helps lead Valjean to his new relationship with God. Over time he transforms into a new man and a new creation. His past is behind him (it would seem) and he holds much responsibility – he becomes a prominent man in the community as a factory owner and mayor. Jesus has absolved him of his bitter sin of theft, but the prison guard, Javert, recognizes Valjean and repeatedly pursues him without mercy referring to him as 24601. Thus, no matter the transformation and new man that Valjean has become, he is always associated with his past sins. These sins God had washed away in the blood of forgiveness, but man refuses to forget details and relentlessly pursues him.

What Kind of Sinner Were You?

Who we are in Christ matters. Who we were also matters. What kind of sinner were you? What had you done? When one slowly struggles and shares deep and personal history of their lives it often permanently defines who they are in the eyes of many. Therefore, it is safe to state that it becomes impossible to truly conquer a sin problem because our brothers and sisters lie in wait for us to stumble so that they may remind us of who we once were. If Jesus does not remind us of our sin, why do such humble servants? Why is spiritual authority expressed in this way at times? Consider carefully what you determine to be your life problem. It will be a measure against you in times of conflict and disagreement.

The life testimony is a perfect example of pinning the identity of someone. It is also a way of making the memory permanent, because the benchmark gets recorded in the history of your new UBF identity. “Hello, my name is X. I was XYZ sinner before I met Christ.” In many ways the human being is still XYZ sinner despite many years to season and reshape that person. Senior leaders will always harbour first impressions no matter the actual change in someone. So, becoming a new creation in Jesus ceases to have power in UBF. This serves the level of integration into the social hierarchy of UBF. It also breeds many issues and to my knowledge has impacted the life of second gens as well.

Conflict of Interests – The Difference Between God and Man

It is unfair to define anyone by an apparent sin problem that they once had. Confession or exposure of sin is visible within the gospels. But, are UBF shepherds equal to Jesus? If anyone composes a life testimony they are entrusting themselves to another person. That person is usually their shepherd. After editing the congregation becomes both judge and jury. The purpose of testimonial is to help examine the word of God against our life – so much more a life testimony. A life testimony brings family background and upbringing into light. It often reveals all emotions as we reminisce about successes and failures – joys and sorrows. The point of the testimony exercise should be a means to help establish deeper roots of faith and relationship with Jesus. But often times it enables seniors to label sheep by their sins.

The identity of a person should reflect their evolution as they walk with Jesus. (A testimony is only an aid to the greater picture that later defines a person.) Jesus has embraced us and forgiven us – So what about you? If we turn and say do not judge, for you too will be judged. Then we should also not keep a record of what people said in their testimonies to define them by. Instead, to get to know the person we should go out together and have fellowship. Talk about life and interests (music and movies) – see them in that context. Let go of the UBF boundary and context style. In this way a bond can be established based on a real relationship with that person. Therefore, conclusions drawn about the person should evolve as the relationship evolves. Sadly, most of us believe that by knowing the life testimony or weekly testimony we are drawn closer to a person. But I say that this is a lie. Knowing the testimonial only helps us to keep records of rights and wrongs – dos and don’ts that the person had done. We are mistaken if we believe we are closer to anyone exclusively through their testimonies.

How should we see each other? Is it right to always view someone as they once were? Is it more Christian to see them with new eyes? Why then should we be judged by man? After all, Jesus is our source and answer – before him alone we shall stand naked to bear all of our deeds.


  1. Thanks for sharing, gc. You raise many good points to ponder, but this one sticks out to me: “This reminder also suggests that even though we have been forgiven by Christ no less, that we must surrender ourselves to eternal servitude to UBF.”

    That clearly explains the problem of the ubf system. The Spirit works to lead students to the forgiveness of Christ, and then ubf shepherds are there to take the credit, ensure conformance to the ubf heritage and then demand life-long gratitude (with hopes of sheep bowing down to them in heaven, in some cases).

    And yes, the one of the primary means of doing this is to remind sheep of who they were. [Of course, no one can even know who the chapter director was, nor can anyone remind the director of who he was.] So after discovering the foundational grace at the cross of Jesus, bible students in ubf are robbed of the ever-present, sanctifying present grace.

    So I believe there is a case of mistaken identity in regard to Jesus as well. ubf people mis-identify Jesus as merely the one who died for sins on the cross. Jesus’ real identity is the living Lord, who is alive right now as the One to whom all glory and authority belong now.

  2. The “shepherd” of Jean Valjean didn’t demand anything from him. He acted according to the grace of Jesus he knew and he indebted Jean to Jesus and no one else.

    gc, reading your article I remembered my feeling not just about my sogams judged by others, but also about others'(who have families) sogams judged. In 2008 I participated in the ISBC, and HR delivered a message with a “life testimony”. She is a wife and a mother. Is it comfortable for her family to have her sharing her “sinful past”?

    There is something very ugly about “sharing life testimonies” by family members in front of crowds of people and the family. I felt uncomfortable, surely my wife felt uncomfortable, I saw that all felt uncomfortable at such moments at ISBCs. Why is there such a practice in ubf? And even children are demanded to listen to such testimonies with all those “past sins” they have never heard of (yet).

    I agree that Jesus has washed and has forgiven. He promised to forget our sins and to throw them away into the deep. Why does ubf try to get the sins back and shared publicly on a regular basis? Have you heard of such things in a Christian church?

    And yes, the “past sins” become an identity for ubf people in ubf. And as the directors never share their testimonies they never participate in this strange practice and in the shame and guilt. The ubf directors are never examples for the flock. So don’t do anything your ubf director doesn’t do, wait for an example. (Better read the Bible and never do such things which are inherent to cults)

    • big bear

      THE WHOLE ubf pupose behind the open confessions is to make you committed to Ubf and to elevate the leaders so they may have power over you and break you. It is about control. In 29 years I have never heard an open confession from our chapter director of his sin or even a testimony…his family was guarded from such things….but he did not think twice about breaking up families or public humiliting people or calling people names….he is honored in Ubf..system is screwed up

    • I would best say about why UBF or any ministry uses testimony is usually for positive reasons. A testimony can encourage or explain to new comers what worked to help bring someone to Christ. Often times when witnessing many of our brothers and sisters will not just invite students to Bible study, but will share a part of their experience – How God led them to renewal. It is not all bad. By writing this article I am not saying we should abandon testimonies, but I do feel we need to be more sensitive to people. A testimony does not define who they are.

      A young student may say something when they first approach testimony writing or even life testimony writing. However, after some time of maturing in God’s word and time to reflect with insight upon their lives they can also contradict and declare their incorrect understanding of the passage or even their life history. But many senior leaders often return to the initial declaration without considering that maybe maturity in Bible study has offered the person a new understanding of themselves before God.

      One unfortunate concern that may cause us to return to the same sins and the same people is to be sure that they are not too casual or complacent in their life of faith. BUT this is for God alone to judge. In ministry we have all experienced humiliation because our seniors have at one time or another understood us to be working less then everyone else. So, a little prodding is done to convict us and remind us of our roles. But, here we get into the system…

  3. big bear

    The summer conference is fast approaching and the mistaken identity will be full blown there. Nobody will tell the whole truth about UBF TO NEW RECRUITS AND MY HEART GRIEVES BECAUSE OF THIS. I am in tears writing this because God rescued me but I earnestly pray he rescues others from a life of guilt and all the families that will be hurt when the new convert returns home to shun his christian parents and friends. What new converts dont understand is they have become crazy for Ubf not God. A true case of mistaken identity…I definitely need to get my book out as soon as possibly as send a copy to every university president in the usa and the world. Perhaps God will use me to save a few families….love to promote it at Isbc….The year the world ended

    • “I am in tears writing this because God rescued me but I earnestly pray he rescues others from a life of guilt and all the families that will be hurt when the new convert returns home to shun his christian parents and friends.”

      I understand this pain, big bear. Yes, after the ISBC comes PCD (post conference depression) as you already pointed out. And then come PCG (post conference guilt).

      Becuase of the specific manner of the way the ISBC lectures and programs are setup, your mind naturally feels guilty after the conference for doing anything not related to ubf. And because ubf was bound to God and the gospel by the lectures. you feel driven to “make a KOPHN”.

      So the natural result is that you start to blame your “wordly” family and friends for hindering you from being a KOPHN. This is how ubf directors get away with saying “We never told anyone to leave their family or friends. We don’t do that.” During the ISBC you are indoctrinated with ubf ideology steeped in Confucianism so that after the ISBC you are motivated to preserve the ubf heritage, even if it costs you your job, your family or your friends.

      My question for anyone going to the ISBC: Will this ISBC be any different? The program is setup just like every conference in ubf I attended for 24 years. I’m sure you can testify that the format is the same as what you saw for 29 years, big bear!

      One this is different: this blog exists and will continue to exist, Lord willing. As we keep sharing here, more and more voices of concern will be raised.

      So I say, let’s let the students decide. Let them observe for themselves and go to the ISBC with open eyes and ears, listening for Confucius where Jesus should have been, watching for the extreme control and staying awake and alert.

    • big bear

      Brian..good point…but if someone would have told me the whole truth maybe I could have stood up sooner…yes the conference is still the same…pray for a break thru in Christ

  4. “but if someone would have told me the whole truth maybe I could have stood up sooner…”

    Yes big bear, I feel the same way. If someone would have told me that my one hour per week bible study equated to MbF and submitting to ubf missionaries my whole life, I would have kept saying no and ran for the hills!

    But that is exactly the control in ubf. In order to make KOPHN products (as their teaching slides say), they need to keep their agenda hidden. That is why I say ask for the blue book!!. Every new bible student should either be given that book, or that book should be burned and rejected.

    Thankfully there is no more hiding! There was no internet or email back in our day, big bear. But thank God for social media now!

  5. @gc,

    Here are my thoughts on your questions:

    How should we see each other?
    > I believe we should see each other as fellow human beings who need love.

    Is it right to always view someone as they once were?
    > I believe it is good to recall past history, but only to a point. A person’s past affects their present. But it is certainly unfair to treat someone based on who they were in the past. This goes both ways in the ubf context. Some have told me it is unfair to judge ubf based on 1976, and I agree partially. And that is one reason I judge ubf based on the present, on the past 3 years precisely.

    Is it more Christian to see them with new eyes?
    > To a point maybe. But not so much “new eyes” that we go to the other extreme and treat people based on our fantasy idea of who we think they should become. That is the other fraud in ubf. I was sometimes treated as if I was still a naive 18 year old. Other times I was expected to be a perfect KOPHN shepherd. Never was I treated as who I am. ubf even mistook my Christian identity, telling me the lie that I was not a Christian before ubf. But I was. I am now unraveling my false self-narrative ubf dictated to me. All of my messages and major testimonies had significant personal application that was DICTATED to me. My job was to accept the narrative given to me.

    Why then should we be judged by man? After all, Jesus is our source and answer – before him alone we shall stand naked to bear all of our deeds.
    > True. Final judgment belongs to Jesus. We will all, 100% of us, stand before Jesus with flawed doctrine. Jesus WILL NOT ask us about how many sheep we fed, or about our performance or how well we preserved some heritage or understood some doctrine……. Jesus will ask “Did you love me? Did you visit me? Did you listen to me?” The final questions will have far more to do with love, grace and justice than with obedience, loyalty and purity.

    • Brian, exactly. I remembered one thing a brother had difficulties with during a conference – that thankfully I never faced. When putting the last minute touches on his life testimony the point and structure was dependent on what he declared as his life sin problem. So, if he said X the rest followed accordingly, but if he said Y it again followed a different course.

      In the end Jesus will only concern about our love or conscience for him.