For many of our brothers and sisters in Chengdu, China, Christmas won’t be quite the same this year, as many of their friends and family members remain incarcerated after a strong crackdown on the church by Chinese authorities over the last couple of weeks. To get up to speed, if you’re not already, you can read my first blog on this situation from one week ago.
It has been encouraging to see many secular media outlets picking up this story, including CNN, BBC, the New York Times, and Forbes. We can pray that perhaps an outcry from the international community will be used by God to pressure Chinese authorities to cease their harassment and allow these believers to worship freely.
Also, World magazine, a highly recommended news source from a Christian perspective, has written a recent helpful update on the situation here, in which they explain how 60 people were arrested when Early Rain tried to worship this past Sunday (a week after the initial crackdown), how police were blocking the entrances to the church, and how outdoor services were disrupted by police. Even still, as the people gathered outside, they recited the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”
One of the students in the class I taught in Chengdu told me that he has been kicked out of Chengdu, and told not to return. His ID card was also taken, which means he can’t travel freely. He is also now separated from his fiance indefinitely. He was studying at the seminary and hoping to be a pastor one day.
As far as I know, Early Rain’s pastor, Wang Yi, is still incarcerated, as well as a handful of others who were arrested on Dec. 9. On Thursday, five to six moving trucks were seen outside the building where the church and seminary are/were located, with police guarding all entrances. It is reported that other members of the church are under 24/7 surveillance.
Outside of Early Rain church there is now a notice posted which reads as follows: “After investigating, we hereby declare that ‘Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church has not registered, and has held activities without authorization under the name of a social association, violating the stipulations of Article 3 of the ‘Regulations for Registration and Management of Social Associations.’ As an illegal social organization, it has been banned in accordance with the stipulations of Article 32 of the ‘Regulations for Registration and Management of Social Associations.’ “
This situation should actually bring to mind some details of the Christmas story. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Matthew tells us that King Herod was “troubled” (ESV) or “disturbed” (NIV) when he heard the news (Mat. 2:3). In fact, Herod was so troubled he eventually ordered the killing of all male children under two years old in an attempt to wipe out this rival ruler. And this is always what godless human authorities will do when they are challenged by King Jesus. And this is what is happening now in Chengdu — the Chinese authorities are “troubled” by a group of otherwise peaceful people who simply refuse to bow down to their authority.
In the sermon this past Sunday on 1 Samuel 8, I mentioned a major difference between the Biblical view of government and the communist view of government. In communism, man is seen as a temporal being who serves the eternal state. According to the Bible, however, the state is seen as a temporal institution that serves eternal man. Two entirely different worldview are clashing in Chengdu, and the world is watching.
Pray that these Christians in Chengdu would love those who persecute them. Pray that they would be bold to not renounce their faith under pressure. Pray for those incarcerated, that they would not lose hope, that they would be treated kindly, and that they would be released quickly. And pray that these faithful servants of Christ would have a merry Christmas as they reflect on the truth that the word become flesh and dwelt among them, so that all may see his glory, even those now persecuting God’s people — glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.