“Sign Petition for Shouwang” commentary 07/06/2011
Recently, a member of Shouwang Church, Ms. Xia Xiaoqiu, came under pressure from her employer, the Christian organization World Vision, to leave her job because of her participation in Shouwang’s outdoor worship activities. This incident became the focus of great attention among Shouwang members as well as overseas churches and the international media. In the midst of their shock, brothers and sisters have also been giving some deep thought to the not-uncommon occurrence of people in the church making wrong choices. Interests and faith, law and mercy, fear and hope, they are all entangled, making us wonder what direction we should take.
The Fall 2010 issue of the quarterly Almond Flowers carried an essay by Shouwang elder Liu Guan in which he recounted the events in 2009 related to Shouwang’s attempts to secure a permanent church meeting site. [Note: the full essay in Chinese is at http://www.helpsw.org/2011/07/2009.html.] In his essay, he recounted a period of difficulty he experienced when he also was pressured by a Christian organization to leave his job (he did not specify which Christian organization it was). In the end, he chose to stay with the church and left the organization.
In his essay, Liu Guan wrote, “During the period that we were working on the church building issue, I experienced some bizarre misfortunes in my career and family life. Just as the church started the campaign to raise church building funds, a missionary group recruited me to join its ministry, and after many rounds of interviews, I was honored to be chosen. Naturally, I left the university teaching job that I had shouldered for 11 years, wrote individual farewell letters to each of the close colleagues I had known and left this huge organization. At the time, my departure was cause for celebration for the entire university leadership at all levels, because for the Communist Party branch secretaries, the United Front Work Committee, the school security guards and the human resources department, it meant that they no longer had to be engaged in the protracted work of getting me to toe the Party line. However, contrary to expectations, after three months at the new job, the organization felt that Shouwang Church’s high profile in the current societal context was at cross-purposes with the organization’s ‘secret’ work, and they went so far as to suggest that I choose between my commitment and loyalty to the organization and to my church. To my mind, this really was an issue of principles, and the result was as you probably guessed. While many brothers and sisters were defending me against this injustice, my response – even to this day – was that I kept wondering when this wasteland would be used by God! After that, having left my job twice in three months, I really had no worries to hold me back, and starting in early September, I became fully dedicated to the church building work. Events proved that, in light of how intense the church building work became, had I still been employed during that time, I would not have been able to do both jobs well. Furthermore, it really would have brought great troubles and attacks upon that missionary organization. This was also the Lord’s wonderful provision and leading, to allow me to be dedicated to completing the sacred work of the church building with a no-turning-back attitude. The only possible response to this kind of leading of the Holy Spirit is simply submission and nothing else!”
This experience of Liu Guan’s was not a coincidence, because two years later, Xia Xiaoqiu also encountered a similar misfortune. The reason was the same: because of the “sensitivity” of Shouwang Church; the source was the same: pressure from a Christian organization. In the midst of such an intense spiritual battle, getting a knife in the back is no surprise.
“Everything for the sake of ministry.” When this sentiment becomes law, becomes political principle, the first thing that happens is the distortion of the human heart and the spirit; then it becomes an idol that rises up obscuring the Cross. That’s why, when the Pharisee and the Levi saw that injured man at the side of the road, they both crossed over to the other side of the road, [probably] because they had important ministry awaiting them. But that Good Samaritan, when he saw the man, he was compassionate and he stopped and helped that injured man. Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
In the face of severe persecution, how much faith do we have left? The persecution that Shouwang Church and its members are suffering is become an historic lesson for churches throughout China and for overseas Chinese churches. The personal experience of persecution has not only made us fervently long for righteousness and love and made us more understanding of other persecuted Christians and churches, it has also made us see clearly that there can be no compromise between darkness and light. What has Beijing to do with Jerusalem? [Translator’s note: from Tertullian’s question, “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens” meaning “What is the connection between faith (Jerusalem) and the secular world (Athens)?]
There is no middle road for a Christian. Our theology, our thoughts, our families and our lives will all be changed and renewed because of persecution, and by standing on Biblical truths, we will receive an even larger portion of blessing, to become salt and light that bring even greater glory to God.
There’s no such thing as a sun that never sets; there’s only the Church that stands forever tall!
The Chinese version: http://www.helpsw.org/2011/07/blog-post_2507.html