Monday, October 1, 2018

A Pastoral Concern -- Holding firm to the Gospel and to love

I recently ran across an article about how the Chinese government is cracking down on Christian churches, Christian pastors, and Christians in general throughout China.  While there are official state-sanctioned Christian churches that the government does not harangue as much, they are often not faithful to God's word.  This leaves faithful Christian pastors with the conundrum of either having to put up with false teachings within the relative safety of a government sanctioned church, or having to risk government suppression while serving faithfully in an unrecognized, often secretive, church.  Many faithful Christian pastors have opted for the second choice in order to remain faithful to God's word.

However, persecution has now ramped up.  Churches have been closed or destroyed.  Christians have been arrested or fined or threatened or even jailed.

In response to this, 344 Christian pastors have signed a document at great personal risk.  The document, "A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith,” makes a bold stand for the Gospel, as well as the desire of these Christians to be faithful, even to the point of death.  Among the comments: “For the sake of the Gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives.”

Perhaps the phrase that struck me as much as any other was summed up in the article I had read.  It states:

"Christian churches are ready to suffer, just as their ancestors did – The writers insist that when the church refuses to obey “evil laws,” it is not out of resentment, hostility or a political agenda, rather from “the demands of the gospel and from a love for Chinese society.”"

You can read the fuller article here: https://churchleaders.com/news/334122-chinese-church-300-underground-pastors-risk-livelihood-by-signing-statement.html

While calling the laws which forbid the preaching of the Gospel "evil," the Christians do not suggest any kind of counter attack against the government nor even any animosity.  They are Chinese people who love their country and its people.  They are perfectly willing to be obedient to their government, except for honoring a law which forbids them from preaching the Gospel.  That law, they will defy.  Not with violence or promoting violence, but remaining committed to loving God above all things and loving their fellow man as themselves.  Their standing firm in the faith is matched by their standing firm to love their fellow man.

Perhaps this struck me because Americans would most likely respond with much more venom to their government if a similar law were enforced.  We are very good at demanding our rights, organizing protests, and so forth.  We would insist upon our constitutional right to freedom of religion.  I wonder if we would be equally committed to declaring our love for our fellow man -- even if we would have to suffer loss for doing so.

I pray that we will never have to find this out by experience, but the history of the Christian Church suggests that things can change fairly quickly.  If the Lord chooses that we need to honor him by serving him as a persecuted church, I pray that our voice would not be one of simply demanding rights.  I pray that we would be as bold as these Chinese Christians to profess our unconditional allegiance to Jesus and his gospel, as well as our love for our enemies and our prayers for those who persecute us.

Meanwhile, pray for the Christians in China.  They need it.