China’s Crackdown on Christian Churches


image from a Catholic Communion

… the Chinese government continues to make heavy-handed moves to rein in Chinese Christians. In the name of maintaining safety and beauty”, the CCP has bulldozed churches and torn down crosses all painted red as reminders of the blood shed by the faithful when Mao Zedong’s troops tried to erase their faith from China almost 50 years ago. Those who speak out against the CCP’s decisions are arrested and placed in black jails.

And yet – there’s hope.

 

Just over a year ago, I wrote something called The more you tighten your grip, Satan.  
It seems it’s time for a reminder of what happens when the grip gets too tight – like what the government in China is trying to do.  I’m not sure that anyone in China will actually get a chance to read this, but it’s certainly a call to pray for them.  In all the years I’ve been doing this, I don’t remember ever getting a single reader from mainland China.  A whole bunch of southeast Asian countries – even Hong Kong – but I don’t remember ever seeing China on the list.


The quote above is from a story on msn.com news.

It’s about a Catholic priest – Gu Yuese, whose name is the Chinese transliteration of Joseph.  You hopefully noticed the quote starts with “…”.  Here’s the whole thing with the missing portion –

When the Congyi Church in Hangzhou was finally complete in 2005, it was called the largest Chinese church in the world, able to hold a crowd of 5,500. Nearly $6.5 million was raised to fund its construction. Years later, as Congyi’s membership swelled, even the underground parking lot was reappropriated as a meeting place by younger worshipers, so they raised another million dollars to build a new parking lot.

All of the money came from Congyi’s congregation. Their pastor, Gu Yuese, whose name is the Chinese transliteration of Joseph, managed the church’s affairs for years, and eventually became the highest-ranking church official sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

On Jan. 29, Gu was arrested by Chinese police, who stated “economic matters” as the reason. Days later, the CCP accused Gu of embezzling $1.6 million. From where, allegedly? That remains unclear.

Gus arrest occurred as the Chinese government continues to make heavy-handed moves to rein in Chinese Christians. In the name of maintaining safety and beauty”, the CCP has bulldozed churches and torn down crosses all painted red as reminders of the blood shed by the faithful when Mao Zedong’s troops tried to erase their faith from China almost 50 years ago. Those who speak out against the CCP’s decisions are arrested and placed in black jails.

If you don’t know, China is a country in conflict with itself over what to do about / with religion.  As the msn.com article points out –

Officially, China is an atheist country, but constitutionally guarantees religious freedom. However, in practice, the CCP is wary of all religious organizations.

Given that – one has to question – why the arrest now?  Well – this may help figure out the answer –

China’s Crackdown on Christian Churches

However, in practice, the CCP is wary of all religious organizations. In particular, CCP officials see several religious bodies as threatening forces, including Protestant and Catholic churches. The Party has just under 88 million members, whereas there may be up to 100 million Christians in China today. Wenzhou, a city in the same province as Hangzhou, has an estimated 1.2 million Protestants among its population of 9 million, and is known as China’s Jerusalem. By the end of 2014, China was the largest producer of Christian Bibles.

Those numbers of Party members versus Christians are staggering.  
Twelve million more Christians than party members!  
On one province – 1 out of 9 people are Christian – in a country that’s officially atheist!
And for the last couple years China has been the world’s largest producers of Christian Bibles!

On that last item – even if the government is looking at selling Bibles as being good for the economy, they have to realize that more than a few of those Bibles are going to be read by the very people they hope to keep as atheists.
What was it that Jesus said about that scenario?

Lk 11:17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? …”

What do I mean by China being a house divided?

They allow the production and sale of Bibles.  As I said – even if they look at is as a pure dollars and cents issue – those very same Bibles are going to be read by people in China – and are spreading the very words that the Communist government is trying to keep away from the Chinese people.  That’s divided.

The words in the constitution are also a clear indication of division.  How can a country guarantee religious freedom – and yet be atheist?  
One way could be by controlling the “religion” – as they are trying to do.  And then saying people are “free” to follow any of the state sponsored “religions”.  And those religions espouse the greatness of the party – not of God.
But – at the same time – they’ve been pretty much ignoring the house churches.  
Until now.
Why?  Maybe because the numbers of non-party church goers – real Christians – is getting too large.  Remember the numbers above.  More Christians than Communist Party members.  So now they crack down.  That’s divided.

So – where’s the hope?

Well, part of the hope is the words of Jesus above – that Satan’s kingdom – cannot stand.  In the same way, neither can a divided Communist government stand.

But there’s more – much more.

The conclusion of the msn.com article is – amazingly enough for an msn.com story on Christianity – correct –

Beijing’s mistake is thinking that the churches of Zhejiang are hungry for power, and that miscalculation is costing the CCP in what they perceive as a battle for China’s soul.

The Communist Party cannot understand love – real love – God’s love – any more than Satan does.

They look at the Christian Church in China as a threat to their “power” – keeping the country in line – what the article calls “China’s soul”.

But that’s not the issue.  The issue is the soul of each individual person in China.

When Jesus was alive – the Roman government of His time was the worst the world had ever seen.  They were brutal – killing Jews and Christians in horrible ways.  And yet, Jesus never talked about overthrowing that horrible government.

In fact, when Jesus was asked a question with the intent of getting Him to condone overthrowing the Roman government, He said –

Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Jesus said, essentially – don’t attack the government.  But – be sure to know the difference between what is due to the government and what is due to God.

This may be lard to understand, and it’s certainly hard to do.  But look at what the Apostle Paul wrote –

Ro 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Ro 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Paul also wrote this –

1Ti 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

There’s no mistaking what Paul wrote.  
Submit to governing authorities – and in Paul’s time that was the Romans who were killing his fellow Christians.
Pray for those in charge of the government – because God has placed them there for a reason.

And – to really make things crystal clear – realize that when Paul wrote that last quote above – he was in a Roman prison.  And he would later be killed by the Romans.
And – he would have considered himself to be completely successful, because he got to give the good news of the Gospel to people in the Roman government.
BTW – about 200 years later, the Roman government not only allowed, but supported Christianity when the Roman emperor converted to Christianity!  Without war!

Now – let’s go back to the heart of the matter –

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

This is about love.  God’s love.
This is about people.  Individual people.  Not the government.
This is about power.  The power that each person has the ability to choose to believe in Jesus or not.  It’s not something the government can take away.  And once the choice has been made – the government cannot undo that choice.

But – the Communist government in China doesn’t understand that.

(The sad truth is, I’m not sure that our own government in the United States gets it anymore either.)

But no atheist government can ever understand it.  
And that’s why they are ultimately doomed.  
And that’s why the people ultimately can win – with the power given them when they believe in Jesus.  His power – stronger than anything else.

And what of the Communist government in China?

I was reading a book just last night – 10 Issues that Divide Christians, by Alex McFarland.  One of the things he says in the book is this –

Dr. Tim LaHaye especially notes how the blessing of the nation may result from many individual citizens applying the teaching of Jesus found in Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Tim LaHaye is an American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker.

What he says in fascinating –

Luke 11:28: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

… is not about the government – but about the people.

 

Look at the following two verses – something that Jesus said –

Lk 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Rev 3:21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Those verses are amazing.  Jesus is waiting for us to call out to Him.  And at the same time – He is calling out to us.  As individual people – not as governments or countries.

What happens with the Chinese government is in some ways irrelevant.  In no way does it keep individual people from pursuing Jesus.  And it certainly doesn’t keep Jesus from pursuing us.  And no matter what happens in this life – with this or any government – in no way does any of that prevent us from spending eternity with Jesus after this life.

The quote below is from the Gospel of John – not an easy one to understand at all, especially for non-Christians – but it’s very important –

Jesus prays for His disciples

Jn 17:13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

Jn 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Jn 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Jn 17:25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

The point here is that Jesus does not ask The Father to take believers out of the world.  He also does not ask that we be physically protected while in this world.  Bad things happen in this fallen world.  But as I pointed out – none of those physical things need have any power over our choice to follow Jesus.  And once we do make that choice – Jesus makes this prayer for His disciples and for all of us today – My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 

Jesus’ prayers are not in vain.  Satan does not have the power to take us away from Jesus.  Certainly then, no government can do that either.  

That last verse is especially relevant in places where Christians are persecuted – like in China –

Jn 17:25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus will continue to make The Father known – through us / through Christians.
Through us – Jesus will continue to make The Father’s love – real / true love – known to the world.  Even when the government doesn’t want it known.

Conclusion

Throughout history – starting with the very Roman government that tried to suppress Christianity right from the very beginning – the times when Christians are under the most pressure are the times when Christianity grows the most.

There is no reason at all to believe that anything different will happen in China.

The government there has no idea what they’re up against.  They think they can control the situation.

But no one – absolutely no one – can control God.

In the beginning – God created everything.  God made us in His image.

At the end – we read this from John in Revelation –

Rev 4:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

So God had total / absolute control at the beginning.

He loves us.  And, He wants very much for us to love Him.  
However – He gives us the free will to choose whether or not to love Him.

At the end – God will exercise His total / absolute control again.

Until the end comes – no person, no government, no power of any kind can take away the choice that God gave us as individuals –

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

Please – join me in praying for the people of China, and other places throughout the world, that they come to know God and that no matter what – they have this choice available to them.

 

 

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