Christmas Persecution- whose next?

Related image Bernie Diaz, December 18, 2018

According to news reports, authorities raided another underground church in southern China last weekend, in an ongoing crackdown on “unregistered” churches- meaning local congregations that wish to actually preach an unadulterated gospel and worship God Biblically.

Police and ‘Religious Affairs’ officials stormed the Rongguili Church during a children’s Bible class and authorities from the ‘Education and Religious Affairs’ departments seized more than 4,000 books and other items. Officials were then gracious enough to ask members to attend any of the 15 registered Protestant churches in the city. Wasn’t that a wonderful Christmas present? Choose from a whopping 15 churches – all government registered and regulated in one entire city!

This latest bit of persecution from the Chinese Communist Party comes on the heels of the detention of more than 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. Their lead pastor Wang Yi and his wife are still imprisoned, and Wang was charged with “subverting” state power.

Last Sunday, authorities exercised that ‘state power’ arresting about 60 members of the church who tried to gather for worship at a riverside park, in the field of a nearby university, and at the closed church building.

After a season of religious tolerance (it would be a stretch to call it liberty), the Chinese government is once again cracking down on evangelical Christianity, closing if not burning down churches, arresting more pastors and leaders and destroying Bibles.

All of this government intrusion upon the church comes in the name of “subversion” which is code for conversion, meaning the fear of the atheistic communist party that too many Chinese citizens if given the basic human right of religious freedom, will prefer to honor and worship Jesus Christ as Lord rather than their “President,” Xi Jinping.

Xi is President in title only, as he has been consolidating power by moving to strike presidential term limits from China’s constitution and continuing to silence rivals and dissent.

This method of religious persecution echoes the playbook or methodology from centuries past; from the Roman empire, to the 20th century Nazi regime and China’s original communist icon, Mao Zedong.

If none of this seems to trouble you or any other American evangelical Christian being that these events are occurring across the world in Asia, consider that the United States economy has relied heavily upon Chinese commercial products, labor and trade for the past few decades and this nation’s leadership may be more than hesitant to call out China’s crackdown on religious freedom and human rights.

As we seek to share our faith and evangelize the lost during this prime time of the Christmas season, may we be aware that we are to prayerfully support our persecuted brothers and sisters overseas, in whatever way we can and realize and prepare for increasing persecution of our faith here at home, which has begun in the marketplace of ideas, moved to the workplace and the school campus as believers espousing biblical and gospel truth continue to be mocked and maligned in the midst of our current moral and sexual revolution.

Am I being premature in ringing the warning bells that could drown out next week’s Christmas bells? Just consider that a student senator at the University of California, Berkeley, was kicked out of her own party last month and is being pressured to resign or face a recall because of her religious views. She says she won’t back down.

Isabella Chow, a daughter of Malaysian-Cambodian immigrants and a junior double majoring in business administration and music, told Fox News that she did not fully agree with certain portions of a pro-LGBTQ bill and was labeled “homophobic” and “transphobic” as a result, earning the ire of most of that entire campus.

Chow’s former party left her with the decision to fully support the legislation and the LGBTQ community or lose her office. Her response? “No matter how difficult this has been, if I don’t represent the Christian perspective – the minority perspective – there won’t be anyone to represent these views,” Chow said. “I’m doing this for the Christian community. I know that I was called for such a time as this…backing down is not an option, especially when backing down means giving in to political pressure and political correctness.”

Mind you Miss Chow was not accused of discrimination towards the LGBTQ community in anyway. She has even gone as far to condemn what she has called, “Christian bullies and bigots” that spew real hate speech. What she refused to do, was compromise her values and Christian convictions about scripture and sexuality as other evangelicals are doing today (i.e. singer Lauren Daigle) in the face of LGBTQ activists and the mainstream press.

Courage and the Declaration of Civil Disobedience

Just prior to his arrest in China, Pastor Wang Yi wrote a “Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” to be published by his church should he be detained for more than 48 hours.

Serving as a courageous and biblical illustration of civil disobedience for the cause of the kingdom and gospel of God, Wang acknowledged God’s call for believers to submit to government (Ro. 13; 1 Pet. 2) when he wrote, “On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God ‘deposes kings and raises up kings.’ This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.”

In fact, Yi went on to say that his gospel mission is not to topple communist China or its social institutions. Wang added in his declaration, “For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, ‘wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people’, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him.”

That statement has fueled Yang’s ministry and should do the same for our own. Yi is sold out for the gospel and souls, to the extent that he risks martyrdom, much as the apostles Peter, Paul and John did in the book of Acts for the sake of proclaiming the gospel and its growth through out the known world. Anticipating his jail cell, Pastor Wang wrote, “I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.”

Furthermore, Wang has openly declared that “… persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society.

This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.”

How true and may we be able to join Pastor Wang in spirit for starters, by understanding and living out the salvation plan of the savior – willing to be persecuted and suffer for the gospel and Christ’s sake not only at Christmas time, but year round.

As Yang added: The cross means being willing to suffer when one does not have to suffer. For Christ had limitless ability to fight back, yet he endured all of the humility and hurt. The way that Christ resisted the world that resisted him was by extending an olive branch of peace on the cross to the world that crucified him.

May we also be worthy of doing the same the rest of this month and in 2019.  The entire declaration of Pastor Wang Yi may be found at: http://www.chinapartnership.org/blog/2018/12/my-declaration-of-faithful-disobedience

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