In response to the situation at the Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, a Chinese believer posted an open letter to Christians world-wide to pray for the Church in China. The article is translated below:
“In the Cross; In the Cross” – An Open Letter to Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ around the World Who are Concerned about the Church Demolition Incident in Zhejiang Province
May grace and peace come upon you from our might and glorious God, and Jesus Christ.
“I believe that the church is holy and just. I believe that disciples should support and understand each other.” These are two common phrases used by Christians. But we must not just say that we believe these things; we must behave in such a way that demonstrates our belief by understanding our brothers and sisters who suffer in pain.
Recently, many churches in Zhejiang have had their churches or crosses demolished. Some churches who haven’t been told to remove their crosses have been forbidden to light the crosses up at night. These problems first appeared in Hangzhou, Sheshang, Zhoushan; and now churches in Wenzhou are facing similar threats from the government.
Sanjiang Church, located in North Yongjia, had received permission last year to build a gothic-style church; but now the government suddenly announced its intention to demolish the new structure. Brothers and sisters from this church and from other churches around Wenzhou have been living at the church for a month, singing and praying. They take turns day and night praying and keeping watch. In addition, many churches in Leqing, Dajing, Baixin, Jia Jia Qiao have also been told to remove their crosses. Today (April 4), over one hundred workers came to demolish the nursing home at the Jiang Jia Qiao church; they were unsuccessful.
It’s true that some of these churches built structures beyond what they had permission for. In some cases, the permission was only verbal, and they are still waiting for the proper documentation. This is a matter that the churches would like to discuss with the government officials. At the same time it’s important to remember that many of these churches have been around for more than ten years. Some of the churches have been warned by the government to remove their crosses and tear down the illegal parts of their churches or the government will not let them start business. Since so many people in Wenzhou are business people, this demand has a far-reaching effect. They all need our prayers and assistance. It seems that things took a turn for the worse when a government official recently visited Wenzhou and saw so many crosses. This made him unhappy because he felt like he was suddenly in a ‘world of crosses.’ This is also all happening during a government campaign against illegal structures.
What is the meaning of the cross to Christians? We do not worship the cross; in fact, we can even build churches without crosses. This does not mean, however, that we can allow people to remove the crosses from our churches whenever they want. This is brutally trampling our right to believe and it has hurt the feelings of tens of millions of Christians. Think about it – what organization will allow the destruction of their banner without putting up resistance? Everyone knows that the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith, so the purpose of forcibly removing it is clear. As Calvin said, “when we see someone shame the Lord (or His Church), we are like dogs who never let anyone shame their masters. We are sons of God.”
This incident illustrates the intersection of the tangible cross and the intangible cross. The brothers and sisters who are bravely protecting the physical cross are expressing the spirit of the cross. Those who just want to protect just the spirit of the cross are often not willing to walk the road of the cross. May God grant more grace! When any brother or sister suffers, we all suffer. The churches in Wenzhou, whether they are “Three-self” or “house church” are all part of our family. As during the time of the Cultural Revolution, we all have the same goal – to lift high the cross.
It’s important to note that in Wenzhou, the boundaries between “three-self churches” and “house churches” isn’t so clear. Some Three-self churches are larger and higher than some house churches (Sanjiang Church is one), and some of the ‘house churches’ look more like Three-self Churches. What we need to remember, however, is that there is never a guarantee that a church building will not be destroyed (as in the Cultural Revolution). But this is not an obstacle to our belief. A church building may disappear, but the spiritual church remains in our hearts. So this is not about a fight over something that is seen, but a fight about what we believe.
Many churches in Wenzhou were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but there are now more believers than there were before! We believe that this is part of God’s purpose for us to experience more and more grace. As the Bible tells us, “God will destroy the one who destroys my temple.” The temple is believers committed to one another. This is what we believe and need to do.
We urgently ask that you pray for us, during this time of spiritual warfare, that the cross will be lifted high in China.
“In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever.”*
God bless China.
*These are lyrics from the Fanny Crosby hymn, “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” The hymn is popular in Chinese churches, both registered and unregistered. The full lyrics (from www.hymnsite.com):
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
there a precious fountain,
free to all, a healing stream,
flows from Calvary’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross,
be my glory ever,
till my raptured soul shall find
rest beyond the river.
2. Near the cross, a trembling soul,
love and mercy found me;
there the bright and morning star
sheds its beams around me.
3. Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
bring its scenes before me;
help me walk from day to day
with its shadow o’er me.
4. Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
hoping, trusting ever,
till I reach the golden strand
just beyond the river.
Original post: http://weibo.com/ccdm2010 (Weibo account required to view)
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/560266643 (creative commons)