Editor’s note: This was written by a Chinese pastor on the morning of January 23rd, the day China halted all travel into and out of Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s novel coronavirus outbreak. As Christians in China and across the world witness the pain and suffering of Wuhan, one Chinese pastor shared his reflections as an encouragement to the church behind the quarantine curtain.
Yesterday, I prayed with a group of brothers and sisters who were about to leave Wuhan for a Christian conference outside of Mainland China. After our prayer, they eventually decided to stay in Wuhan. This morning, the metropolitan city of Wuhan was quarantined. At this moment, it seems that God’s judgment has descended upon the city. It was a painful process thinking about whether it was right or wrong for them to stay in the city. To an extent, I even doubted if God’s presence was with us while we were praying.
I have been thinking about the book of Jonah recently. When God’s judgment is about to come upon Nineveh, he tells the prophet to go into Nineveh; but instead, the prophet is the first one to buy a ticket to leave on a boat going in another direction. When the boat starts sinking, the desperate, life-seeking crew members find Jonah hiding at the bottom of the boat. Yet, when Jonah worships and fears the Lord, the Gentiles [surrounding him] also worship and fear the Lord.
When I heard the news about the quarantine, I immediately classified people into different categories: those inside the collapsing city and those lucky few who narrowly escaped; people I knew and cared about and people irrelevant to me; deceivers who believed and spread rumors and people like me, who were outside, calmly checking social media. Just like Jonah, I categorized people into two groups: those unworthy of salvation, and [myself].
The Book of Jonah was not written for the people of Nineveh, in order to bring them to repentance. The Book of Jonah is written for everyone who lives in the world facing the judgment of death, to bring all people to repentance. Furthermore, the Book of Jonah is written for the people of God, who are faithful to what God has entrusted them, who live a life in fear of God, and who believe in the resurrection and the way of eternity.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Let us pray for God’s church staying in Wuhan. I believe that staying in Wuhan is a great responsibility which God has entrusted to the church in that city. Pray the church will not just stay at home, but will actively preach the gospel of resurrection, like doctors who have found a cure and rich merchants with plenty of masks to spare. The silence of the church will see only private and incomplete repentance like that of Judas; however, the church’s public repentance looks forward in hope to the day all sinners in the city confess the fear of God.
The hope of Wuhan is not in the quarantine being lifted because of some highly effective drugs. Instead, the hope of Wuhan lies with the church staying in the city to proclaim the gospel of resurrection.
Although the city has been separated from the rest of the world, we strongly believe the Lord God is in the city.
Your brother, outside of the city.
January 23, 2020
Translation provided by Rachel, Ryan, and the China Partnership translation team.