For those of you who follow us on our “Journey Home”, there is some news that is quite important. I just received an email from Japan on the state of the church in China. The persecution there is intensifying every day. I hear regularly about The Chinese government forcing Christians to sign a document that they renounce their profession of faith and pledging to total support the government. If the document is not signed then there are severe consequences, such as forbidding them to hold a job and they are ostracized from society. Sometimes they are imprisoned and other means to force them into submission. I know of one individual who was in his third year of studying medicine and he was forced to leave the school and is not allowed to continue his studies.
In another situation the pastor and his wife and 70 of the members were put in prison because they would not turn over the control of their church to the government. The church was then disbanded and the remaining members were then interrogated and required to sign the paper. In other situations the church is split into several smaller groups and forced underground. Life for Christians in China is quite difficult, It is illegal for a church to own property and all of their resources are confiscated.
The government will allow a church to continue if they will allow the government to place faces identification cameras in the church and yield to the government’s full control. It didn’t work for king Ahasuerus in the book of Ester nor did it work for the Roman government’s requirement of calling Cesar Lord. Historically, the church has always grown more under persecution than it has at any other time so we should be looking for what God is doing. It is at the most difficult times that God is seen clearer and works the greatest miracles. The examples are numerous of atheistic kings discovering God when trying to stamp out His people.
I often hear the question, why does the Chinese government persecute the church? I am sure that there is several reasons but the number one reason is probably that they are considered a threat because the church refuses to bow to the government as the ultimate authority. It makes sense that an atheistic government would fear a people who do not recognize them as the ultimate authority. After all, they came into power by not recognizing the then current authority so they would want to squash any authority that they couldn’t control. This is especially true when there are as many as 100 million Christians in China (that is 1 in every 14) which is a large block of people that you don’t control.
Perhaps a more important question is, why does God allow persecution? It all seems unfair (and it is) but God has good reasons to allow it. Consider the following reasons as some of the purposes of God in allowing persecution:
- To reveal His personage. The main reason that leaders demand to be acknowledged as the ultimate authority is that they do not know God who is the ultimate authority. They see God as uninvolved if they even acknowledge His existence. Often their view of God is in the lives of His professed followers who are not a good representation of Him. They are unaware of the possibilities and the dangers of defying God. (Consider Goliath) God wants us to know Him as He is with all His power, knowledge, love, etc. He has only good in mind for us but for us to enjoy it we must have our grip on sin broken.
- To refocus His people. God’s people sometimes get out of step with God and become carnal or worldly. We begin to take the reins out of God’s hands and attempt to justify ourselves and earn our place with God. This will never be allowed by God. The Bible states clearly in Romans 14:23 “whatsoever is not of faith (in Him) is sin.” In Hebrews 11:6 “without faith (in Him) it is impossible to please Him.” Whenever we get on the works system we are setting ourselves up for persecution. The Lord gave the early church the command to go into all the world and teach all nations . . . (Matt. 28:19-20) but the church stayed in Jerusalem. The next event that followed was the death of Stephen and a great persecution against the church. Then the church began preaching Christ after they were scattered everywhere. We need to learn to follow God’s instructions and not what we think.
- To recover and refine His people. If God did not let us know we were off course we would continue moving out of God’s will and people would perish and we would suffer great consequences. We desperately need course corrections. The hardest lessons are often the ones we remember the most and are most apt to turn us from our own self will. Not only is it His intent to recover us from our error, He wants to refine us in His service and expand our usefulness. Growing in His grace is essential in our transformation into His image and likeness.
- To renounce false gods. It is important to note that everyone lives by faith all of the time. Having faith is not our weakness but placing our faith in the Lord and not in anything or anyone else is the biblical faith that causes God to get involved with our situations. He only responds to faith in Jesus as Lord (boss). When we trust anything else it is unbelief in Christ and brings its own consequence. The key to triumphant living is in living by faith in Jesus and renouncing all other options as false gods. Why is it so important that we get this straight? Because there is no other Gods and the world needs desperately to see the truth.
- To reach the Lost. The world will die in their sin unless and until they know the only true God. We are the illustrated version of this message that God is real and He has revealed Himself in the personage of Jesus. Romans 10:13-17. Jesus said we are the light of the world. (Matt 5:14), and II Corinthians 5:18 states that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. These are but some of the reasons God allows persecution.