I came across this video and article regarding the Chinese church and government crackdown the other day and just had a chance to watch it today (office internet precludes any video’s b/c it take about as long as a heat wave to move). We have no idea what it is like to worship under the religious limitations of a place like China. Now we don’t need to feel guilt for that; we don’t live in China. Yet, without feeling guilty, we can still can learn from our brothers and sisters in the faith, just as Paul claimed the Thessalonians provided a great example for others as they heard about such faith.
“I Thess 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”
Here are some of my takes after seeing this short video from CNN.
1.) Examples are great. I believe we need examples. I need to see what it looks like for folks to radically live out their faith because they are enamored with their Savior, loving Him more than their lives, so much so that they don’t shrink back even at death. I need to see what Jesus could do in me if I believed the gospel more than I do now. But it is a precious love of their Savior (or more theologically accurate an understanding of their Savior’s precious love for them), not them trying be tougher, more radical, or follow an example better than the apathetic world around them which creates extreme faith. Simply put, because of Jesus’ love for them, they will conquer even the government. Much like my favorite line in Gladiator, “Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome.” Or you could also go with Revelation 12:11, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Examples are great as long as they don’t collapse to the lowest common denominator: Be Bold like the Chinese.
2.) Inside of most of us, I think, there is a tendency to want to defy the government and, “stick it to The Man.” There is a residue of our sinful flesh which desires autonomous freedom. But there is also part of our the redeemed heart which wants to obey its new master, friend, savior Jesus, even more than the government. And that part is from the Spirit.
Sometimes I think we like the verse in Acts “We must obey God rather than men,” because it excites us to be free from government authority. It excites me to have this freedom, on this rare occasion, to stick it to the man. Of course getting beat up and tortured seem a lot less exciting. Now the time may come-though I tend to doubt it-when the government will intervene and regulate worship on a widespread manner. But we’re not there yet. So we probably shouldn’t live as though we’re allowed to stick it to the man by griping and disrespecting leaders whom we should be praying for (I admit I do very little of the latter) with God’s blessing. And I would do well, and probably others, to recognize our longing for such a time may be more centered around “sticking it to the man” than really loving and honoring Jesus more than Caesar.
3.) Should the Chinese government be concerned about these unregulated churches? Is there really a threat to communism? Are these churches really subversive? In other words, from a pragmatic point of view, SHOULD the Chinese government do all it can to stop the spread of the gospel? It makes it easier for me to be gracious toward an opponent if I can understand his/her worldview and how the gospel or my actions would be perceived by him/her. If they have a logical point, like not letting us do a bible club at a government subsidized apartment complex, I get that. I’m less frustrated by that. Anyhow, I’ll try to deal with this one tomorrow….