Nov 20, 2009

The Chinese People and Christianity

I like the Chinese people.

The Chinese people are resilient. They seen brutal wars and seen destruction of their homes and cities in those wars. But, the Chinese people are also one of the most industrious people on the planet. No one can ever accuse the Chinese of being lazy. They are also vastly underpaid, as a labor force. But, ultimately it is this willingness to work hard and to produce a wide array of goods that has brought to the Chinese people great abundance. Capitalism is alive and well in China. May it continue to flourish.

But, I like the Chinese for other reasons, too. I like them because they are pro-family. They have great respect for their elders. They are a nation that has fought against great hardships and emerged stronger.

The government is not a form that I can endorse, since communism has too many components within it that I not only disagree with, but which have been proven, over time, to not work. Indeed, China has had to modify its version of communism to embrace capitalism. It’s only been with that embrace of capitalism that China has vaulted onto the world stage as an economic giant. It will continue to grow. The people are hungry for goods and hungry to earn a decent living.

I believe we are seeing the results within China of seed planted by Christian missionaries many years ago. There are estimates of over 80 million Chinese Christians in the country. The Chinese government has come to realize that Christianity has never posed a threat to it, but rather it is only through Christianity that it can truly grow and prosper. It is Christianity that made America great. It is Christianity that can make China great. Many leaders know this. Opposition to Christianity is not as fierce as it once was in China. They still have a knee-jerk reaction to hearty, unabashed Christianity, and people still go to jail and are still punished for evangelizing there, but it is not the extreme repressive nation it once was. There are some who are openly Christian, and whose proclamation of the gospel is unabashedly public.

There are many strong Chinese Christians in the land, and many who, though perhaps no longer alive, were pioneers, willing to pay the price of prison in order to make converts. Samuel Lamb is one such Chinese Christian. Lamb was born in 1924, the son of a Baptist pastor. He spent twenty years in prison for his faith, with 15 of those years laboring in a coal mine where accidents were common, deaths and serious injuries frequent, and illness abounded. He was never injured. He was never seriously ill. When released in 1978, he was alone. His wife died two years earlier. In 11 months, he would see his ailing mother die. The first thing Lamb did was to form a new house church, even installing closed-circuit television. The congregation grew to the hundreds. Between 1980 and 1990, he baptized more than 1000 new believers. He set up a tape-reproduction system for his sermons and even a private printing press to distribute teaching pamphlets. His ministry was very public.

In January 1986, an official from President Reagan came to China and presented him with a gift from the President, a pen. Astronaut Jim Irwin and Billy Graham visited his church in 1988.
As a result of the attention, authorities began to pay close attention to Lamb. He was called in to the Public Security Bureau 6 times and threatened with closure of his church if he didn’t register the church with what is commonly called the Three Self. (A government run organization which monitors and governs churches in China.) He resisted. In 1990, 60 police raided his church and confiscated thousands of Bibles, books and takes. They even took away his pen and a Bible given him by President Reagan, though they later returned those items. These raids and summons for interrogation continued through the nineties.

Lamb’s response to them was simple and direct: “I’ll not register even if you arrest me again because these laws [of registration] give us no freedom.” He also expressed a willingness to die as a martyr. The response to that from the government officials was: “Oh no, we’re not Romans.”

In 2002, during an interview with David Aikman, author of Jesus in Beijing, Lamb said, “The more persecution, the more the church grows.”

Samuel Lamb is, to the Chinese Christians, a genuine patriarch.

There are many such leaders amongst the Chinese Christians. We hear little about them here in America. But, they are there. I believe the Chinese government is slowly coming to realize that there is no inherent evil in Christianity, and that at worse, it might grow a few genuine fruitcakes (we have our share) who will pose more danger to themselves, than the government.

One of the most exciting books I’ve ever read, a book that gave me great hope and joy, was the Jesus in Beijing book. David Aikman, the author, was the former Time magazine bureau chief in Beijing. It is a tremendous book, one every Christian ought to read. It will give you hope and let you see what God hath wrought through the sacrificial work of decades of work by missionaries.

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