On Sunday morning, I woke up and refreshed my Instagram feed. An account I usually follow for picturesque photos of local life in China was instead posting protest videos. Young people screamed out for release, and some even openly demanded political change – something I never thought I would see. After years of Covid restrictions, Chinese citizens seem to have reached a breaking point. For the first time since 1989, mass protests have broken out in cities across China. Something seems to have snapped. There is little doubt the protests will be quelled and the participants punished, and it is possible harsh repercussions are in store for many people across China.
How can I fellowship with Chinese believers from my comfortable and safe home in the States? What does it mean for Chinese Christians to fellowship with one another when they may have very different perspectives on how to respond when so many are locked in their own homes? What is Christian fellowship in an age of disconnection, dissension, and disaster?
An Opportunity for the Gospel
When people risk personal security to protest, it is because they are profoundly disillusioned with the status quo. Those who merely watch the protests are also likely frustrated and frightened. In a time of widespread dissatisfaction, Christians have solid hope. All believers, in both good times and disastrous ones, share in this hope. When the lives and words of believers show that God exists and speaks to the real pain and anger that many are experiencing, people pay attention.
Right now, lots of Chinese are feeling disappointed in society and worried about the future. Of course, not all Chinese feel this way. But some people are clearly seeing, perhaps for the first time, that the answers offered by the world are futile. If these people encounter the hope of Christ, which is true and solid in the midst of suffering, then their hearts may become tender to God. If these people see Christian community sacrificing themselves for the good of those outside of their families, they can’t help but be moved. And who better to offer this hope than Chinese Christians, so many of whom vividly understand that following Jesus does not result in a life of comfort and ease – yet it is worth it nonetheless.
There are many Chinese living outside of China, yet carefully watching events within their nation. These Chinese diaspora are likely experiencing many of the same emotions, and are searching for the same answers. This is a time of great opportunity for churches inside and outside of China. I pray the church around the globe is ready to share Christ’s kingdom, which stands secure, no matter how much earthly nations stagger.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
A Dangerous Course to Navigate
There are, of course, many shoals around which Christians must steer in these times. In intense political times, many Christians will have different responses. Some will be tempted to put their hope in protest or in action, while others will want to disengage and avoid conflict. They may have completely different views on the righteous course of action. Perhaps the biggest danger for believers is that they will allow the arguments of the world to tear apart their Christian communities.
Yes, these issues affect every aspect of daily life and have the potential to end in serious consequences for believers and their families. But somehow, the church must find a way to show love to one another and to stand united in Christian fellowship, especially when there are a diversity of viewpoints in the same body. Christians need great amounts of wisdom to navigate these perilous waters. Pastors and leaders, in particular, must think carefully about how they shepherd their flocks to interact with the state and with their fellow citizens. In many ways, the church in the West has failed this test in recent years. But God himself never fails. I pray he will strengthen Chinese believers so they may bear “with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
I pray the Lord will grant those of us outside of the Chinese church the means to steadfastly stand with them in prayer. There is much we cannot do, but through prayer we can share in the joys and sorrows of the Chinese church.
We do not know what the future will bring. But we know that God is with his people, and that none of his children follow him alone.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three young children. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray that Christians inside and outside of China will experience the unity of the Spirit in these tumultuous times.