The Internal Cross: A Pastoral Letter


Editor’s note: This pastoral letter, from February of this year, encourages and commends believers for the way they have borne up under the outward persecution of recent year. Yet, in the second half, he urges them to take up and bear their “inner” cross: to die to themselves and lay down their lives in their interactions with friends and family. Li reminds his congregation to rely on Christ’s grace, not their own goodness. He also specifically addresses husbands, wives, and parents, calling each group to die to themselves.


Grace-Reliant Hearts

What is the “internal cross”? The internal cross is when we apply the rule of the cross to our daily lives. We follow this rule in every small life choice; relationships with other brothers and sisters and with spouses, parents, and children; and interactions with friends and neighbors. The internal cross is not calculating others’ evil or seeking your own benefit. It is being willing to suffer loss and “go the extra mile,” not complaining or venting, but living out Jesus’s life.

This lesson is one every Christian must master, because the Lord says to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” He also says, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

The internal cross is when we apply the rule of the cross to our daily lives. We follow this rule in every small life choice; relationships with other brothers and sisters and with spouses, parents, and children; and interactions with friends and neighbors.

Our heart is a battlefield. We need to hide in Christ and look up to the grace of the cross, not only when persecution comes, but also when we face our spouse, parents, and children. If our hearts are not in Christ, we fall into “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life.” If we do not rely on the grace of the cross, we inevitably fall into the self-boasting of legalism and moralism. We always see the problems of others, but not our own. We easily begin believing our actions are right if they are beneficial, or we fall into worldly, materialistic calculations and forget what is truly important. If we do not rely on grace, we easily fall into the traps of the devil. We believe in conspiracy theories and rumors, neglect details, treat fear and indulgence as love, and more.

We must frequently seek to repent, for within the confines of our own homes, we often harden our hearts. Like Pharaoh, we utter words that wound and perform actions that harm. Even if we refrain from using words to inflict pain, we often resort to icy silence or indifference. This causes immense suffering to our loved ones.

Family Relationships

Husbands: do you notice how you fluctuate emotionally? Even if you haven’t done something outright wrong, consider why your wife bristles with anger. If you begin to implement the “rule of the cross” in your home, you will be observe the rising anger in yourself. When you feel invalidated or affronted, you seek solace in your own virtues, not Christ’s cross.

We must frequently seek to repent, for within the confines of our own homes, we often harden our hearts. Like Pharaoh, we utter words that wound and perform actions that harm.

In your heart, you replay your tireless efforts for your family, the sacrifices you have made for your wife, the price you paid caring for your children. Your anger is kindled. You feel unjustly treated, and find reason to be angry with your “unreasonable” wife. Brother, if you do not view your anger through the lens of the cross and crucify your self-righteousness, you will find yourself ensnared in an unending family war. You will be blind to the pain you inflict upon your wife. You will forever perceive yourself as an innocent victim.

Wives: why is it that, after years of effort, you have made little progress in submitting to your husband? You think you are acting for his benefit, but he defies you, and your relationship is increasingly strained. If you begin to practice the lesson of the internal cross, you will not avoid Christ as you correct your husband. Instead, you will approach Christ before you address the man before you. You will express your deepest sentiments to Jesus. Dear sister, you are incapable of changing your husband. But Christ can. You have tried for many years, why not cease your efforts? The more you love your husband through Christ, accepting and treating him with kindness, the more you see him as a man invigorated by Jesus’s love.

Parents, do you know the journey of raising children is a process of bearing the cross and striving for the gospel? In child-rearing, the most important task is not meeting children’s nutritional or material needs. It is not even teaching them to read the Bible, pray, and attend church. No. The most important task is to guide them away from their own sins, from the deceit of the world, and the devil’s snares in your home and everyday life. Lead them to Christ. Let them acknowledge their sins and understand that Christ has paid the price for them on the cross.

Brothers and sisters, I hope that through these lessons of the internal cross, in the coming year we will learn and grow together in God’s grace.

Do your children witness genuine love in your marriage? Do they see a repentant husband who treasures his wife like a precious gem? Do they see a repentant wife who reveres her husband like a king? Do they see parents seeking God’s forgiveness for their negligence and harm toward their children? Do their parents apologize to their children?


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Brothers and sisters, I hope that through these lessons of the internal cross, in the coming year we will learn and grow together in God’s grace. May the Lord Christ, who guides us to learn and grow amidst persecution and tribulation also give us grace and strength. Then we may shed the old self of bitterness, complaint, hard-heartedness and self-righteousness, and put on the new self of gentleness, humility, gratitude, and kindness toward others. May we learn the rule of the cross in both external and internal battles.

Brother Yingqiang, who races toward the goal with you, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.


Elder Li Yingqiang is an elder of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. He and his wife have two children.

Pray for Chinese Christians to die to themselves daily and take up their “internal cross.”

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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