Editor’s note: As Chinese house churches try to respond to the current challenges in the Chinese climate toward religion, knowledge and understanding are in great need. In a 2021 seminar for Chinese Christians, “Gabriel,” a Christian attorney, shared about how and why house churches should adopt a gospel-centered legal framework, and what that means practically for believers and their church communities. He admonished believers to think about why they are suffering, and to use their suffering to make Christ’s gospel known through their suffering.
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Phil. 1:12 – 14
The Whole Imperial Guard
Paul said, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel… it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard…that my imprisonment is for Christ.” In today’s language, the word “imprisonment” refers to the loss of personal freedom and suffering from detention. In China, the new Religious Affairs Regulations mention that joint law enforcement is required when enforcing the law. Is that not “the whole imperial guard”?
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Everyone seeks to find fault in you: the National Security Bureau, the Public Security Bureau, the Civil Religious Affairs Bureau, the Education Bureau, the Civil Affairs Bureau, the Street Office, the Village Council, the Neighborhood Council, the Urban Management Bureau, the Administration for Culture, Radio and TV and News and Publishing, the Natural Resources Bureau, the Environmental Protection Bureau, all kinds of bureaus. God has permitted this in order for the whole imperial guard to know the gospel. The “joint law enforcement” of today is a grace God has given us. In the past, you suffered once, and only a few law enforcement officers knew. Now when you suffer, many law enforcement officers know. The rest of the people are watching.
In China, when a church is punished and the punishment is clearly illegal, surrounding people think, “This Jesus cannot be believed. Officers from the Public Security Bureau have come, can they be wrong? Christians must be the ones at fault; they are ignorant and superstitious.” But through filing appeals or lawsuits, even if the appeal is not accepted, everything is made public. If officials say Christians are involved in evil acts, but then do not give them a chance to speak, it is difficult to state who is right and who is wrong. There will be some who are moved by the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts as they watch. They understand the gospel does not bring suffering, and that Christians do not commit crimes in violation of the law.
Bold to Speak and Spread the Gospel
Suffering and warfare for the sake of the gospel achieves two effects: first, the gospel is spread among the Gentiles. The second is effect is being “bold to speak the word without fear.” Have we now had one Christian who was executed for the sake of his faith in the Lord? No. Have people been sentenced for believing in the Lord? Yes, but those are still rare cases. Even administrative detention cases are exceptions to the rule.
Undeniably, there are more fines, bans, and so forth. When compared with Paul, with the early church, with the church of the Reformation, with the historical Chinese church or even with the church of Wang Mingdao’s day, we are paying a very minimal price compared to what our ancestors paid. But nowadays, with social media, the power of dissemination is wide. We are now paying a small price, but we can spread the gospel more broadly. We need to ask the Lord to give us the wisdom to say whether or not we are willing to do this.
Once I was in a prayer meeting and saw a sister confessing her sin and repenting. Brothers and sisters were all in tears before God. I thought at that moment, “God’s salvation is so precious that he can save a person.” A church is indeed very valuable. A church can bring blessing and transformation to many lives and many families. Many churches have worked so hard to establish their church, and have shed many tears over the past decades to build up that church. Yet in the face of persecution, that church was destroyed with incredible ease because they were not equipped or because they lowered their vigilance.
Pastors, the price you pay may be that you are detained for a few days or that you are financially penalized. But the results you will bring are the ability to preach the gospel and to strengthen the saints. This is the reason we are called. This is the most critical time. If, by grace, you are able to stand during this period, you may cause a greater revival in your church. But if you flee, if you give up, if you stumble, the whole church will suffer a great loss, and your previous work may not be completed.
May God have mercy on us; we are clearly weak. We preach the gospel, but even more, we rely upon the gospel of Christ.
Gabriel (加百列) is a pseudonym for a Chinese Christian who works as an attorney representing believers and churches facing legal challenges.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for God to give Chinese Christians wisdom as to how to use any difficulties they face to honor God and spread the gospel to a watching world.