Editor’s note: In the last year or so, many Christians have begun to consider leaving China and making a life elsewhere. One Shanghai pastor who observed the phenomenon wrote this pastoral letter to his congregation to help guide them as they decide whether or not they should leave. This is the third and final section of that pastoral letter; the first and second sections can be found here.
Here, the pastor reminds Christians that hard times only point out the truth of the Bible and humanity’s need for rescue. He also reminds them that it is foolish to believe any country or system can save them, as all are marred by the effects of sin. Finally, he asks Christians to think carefully, pray deeply, and seek wise advice from other believers before they decide their course.
This translation has been edited and condensed from the original for both clarity and length.
Testimonies Around Us
Dear believers, you see the injustice and the suffocating despair in this land. I wonder: doesn’t it seem like the Bible has never before seemed so true? In the past, you may have had a vague understanding of sin. Yet now, surely you must see sin more clearly. In the past, when you read the prophets or saw the violence filling the earth, perhaps you just thought that the Bible concerned events that happened a few thousand years ago in the Near East. Maybe you thought those events were out of step with today’s tranquil times. But at this point, you must know the prophets’ wrath and rebuke is just as deafening to us today as it was in the past.
Perhaps the Bible is right. Perhaps we really do have nothing to cling to on earth except for our home in heaven. If we believe any country, any land, or any earthly political system is the salvation that will save us from the entanglement and harm of sin, then we are believing a lie.
Have you ever wondered how Christians in the country to which you are considering emigrating would respond to your current expectations? Have you thought about where Christians in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or other developed countries will go when they face injustice, sin, and despair in their own countries? When they encounter suffering, division and hardship, where is their refuge?
Christians in those countries can emigrate as they choose. But I have often seen them move to places with more poverty and injustice, more spiritual barrenness, a more imperfect political system. They move out of faith, out of love and self-sacrifice, out of a desire to see the gospel spread, and for the glory of God. Yes, I am speaking of missionaries, both full-time and vocational.
First, I want to pour some cold water on the subject. If you are considering emigration, let me ask: when did you start to think about it? Have you wondered why many people are thinking of moving at this particular time, not before? Many people, including non-Christian friends, bought homes just before they began to think of moving abroad. When they purchased their house, they had a certain perception of society, politics, economics, and history. On what basis have they decided to go abroad? Do you fully understood the history, culture, customs, different values, food, and climate of the country you want to go to?
If you are considering going abroad, think about the basis of your decision. Is it fear and anxiety? Are you deciding based on politics, economics, and history? Or are you merely following the crowd? Is it possible you might be wrong? Many times we seem to be “free.” But if we do not start with the fear of the Lord and truthful thought, then maybe we are not free or wise. Instead, maybe we are being led by the world and are falling into Satan’s deceptions.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Our generation, comprised mostly of those born in the 80s and 90s, grew up when our country was moving from poverty to relative prosperity. We were on an upward trajectory, and most of our life choices were based on the assumption society was improving. Yet throughout human history, that has never been the case. Because the world is fallen, whenever humanity was living in a hopeful way, sin has always been able to destroy everything. There have been far more times of war, famine, and poverty throughout history than of development, prosperity, and peace. Frankly, we had 40 years of relatively peaceful development. That is rare, and not to be taken for granted.
The Bible is the truth of God, and it is always right. Because this is a fallen world, every generation must be prepared to suffer. God loves us and wants to test us. We have received his salvation. We ought to think about how salvation works out in us. What is the calling and responsibility God has given our generation?
Most people in the world can consider emigration if they have the ability, the resources, and the choice. They do not make decisions based on faith. But we must not be like the world. We must think: where is our hope? If you are able, please meditate on Hebrews 11.
Whether or not you emigrate, do not make a choice you would regret when looking back on your life. I mean that you should think deeply; do not make impulsive decisions. Pray, seek counsel from other believers, and read the Bible. God will lead.
Chariot of Fire is a pseudonym for a house church pastor in Shanghai.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Christians to understand their home and salvation lies in heaven, and no earthly place or system can satisfy.