In the last several years, I have become part of a group I never wanted to join: allergy sufferers. Despite a regimen of medicine, each day during the peak of tree pollen season (the months of January and February where I live), I wake with my eyes nearly swollen shut. Throughout the day, the discomfort continues, as I try to remain indoors, refrain from rubbing my itching eyes, and repeatedly rinse my red eyes with drops. While fighting allergies sounds trivial, the daily struggle impacts my mood and frays my stamina, making showing patience more difficult as I am often more focused on the frustration of the moment than on showing compassion to my family.
Although it may not be immediately clear what my allergy-swollen eyes have to do with the Chinese house church, this month I have been encouraged by reading how Chinese Christians are focusing on the reality that they are seated with Christ in the heavens. My minor daily struggle reminds me that the sometimes difficult realities of daily life are not eternal, and are not the most true thing about my circumstances. Although we still live on a fallen earth and our bodies and character still bear the marks of sin, we have already been resurrected. In Christ, we are a new creation. Jesus has defeated death and is currently seated at God’s right hand, ruling over a real kingdom. Someday, heaven will descend to earth and we will live in the reality of his reign. In the meantime, fixing our eyes on Jesus helps us live in the reality that our present struggles will not last forever.
For Chinese Christians, the reality is that their public space for worship has shrunk. Their ability to worship in private is also contracting. In some places, church leaders have been imprisoned. General harassment seems to have increased. Many Christians had begun church schools, but over the last years, most of those have closed. Families are worried about how they will raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord when it seems everything is against them. In spite of all this, the truest thing about Chinese Christians is that they are citizens of a heavenly kingdom. They have been seated with Christ in the heavens, and even their current difficulties are only a mark of their union with Christ.
Here are a few points that have encouraged me this month:
When Chinese Christians Suffer, They Rejoice
Although this has been a difficult season for many Chinese believers, they are responding to persecution with worship. Ministry leader Muxi Zhang shared several articles this month about this ascension theology. He said, “Under all this persecution, the mentality of the Chinese church is that they are not here to survive, they are here to thrive. For the sake of the kingdom, they want to flourish.”
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Chinese Christians have not adopted a victim identity. Instead, they understand that their identity is servants of the king. Any opposition that flows from their faith is actually opposition to the kingship of Christ. Any suffering they endure because of their faith is a chance to identify more closely with their Master, who himself suffered. They do not seek suffering or difficulty, but when it comes, they rejoice in an opportunity to walk the road of the cross, just as Jesus did.
They Are Joyfully Pressing Forward With Sharing the Gospel
I have been struck again and again with the response of the Chinese house church to view COVID as a chance to call the world around them to the hope of the gospel. They have done this by proclaiming the gospel through both word and deed. Brother Luo wrote of his church’s response to the initial outbreak. Believers were able to obtain masks and “pandemic prevention supplies” and how, as they generously shared those things, many hearts were opened to the truth of the gospel. “For the first time in ten years of preaching the gospel, we saw a change in the attitude of citizens toward our evangelistic efforts,” he said.
Brother Luo writes passionately of how each and every believer is called to witness to the hope and life found in Christ. Leaders alone cannot bring the truth to a nation of more than a billion people. He believes that every Christian has an obligation to share the truth. For him and brothers and sisters in his church, the pandemic was an opportunity to go out on mission.
There is much more to share. As we look to February, we at China Partnership invite you to join us in praying the Psalms alongside the Chinese house church. We hope that 2022 will be a year of growing closer to our King Jesus, and understanding how the reality of his reign can change and empower us through whatever life brings our way.
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 for Christians everywhere to live in the reality of the resurrection and the ascension, not daily circumstances or struggles.