Faithful Disobedience

The pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China was recently arrested on allegations of “inciting subversion of state power.” Anticipating his arrest, Wang Yi drafted a letter to be released should he be detained for more than 48 hours. Unfortunately, his prediction came true, and he was arrested. Fortunately, his letter was released. I say it was fortunate because it was incredibly encouraging to my soul to read (and, I suspect, for many other believers who read it).

I’m honored to have a brother in Christ like Pastor Yi, who has the courage to stand up for his Christian convictions in light of a government that opposes Christianity. He writes:

Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.

I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.

If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.

This is a man who has the big picture—an eternal perspective—in mind. His mission is clear: to proclaim the gospel. No matter the circumstances that surround him, he is fixated on his goal. Like the apostle Paul, Pastor Yi is also concerned about the spiritual health of his captors. He continues:

Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.

Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family—the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.

And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?

Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws. 

I encourage you to read the entirety of this letter. It’s a sober reminder of the forces that are against us. Despite the fact that we live in a culture that is hostile to the gospel, it’s definitely not as severe as it is in China. Should our government ever get to where China’s is, I pray that I—and believers everywhere—would be as courageous as Pastor Yi to stand for the truth.

Alan Shlemon

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