Some time ago I had the opportunity to read an issue of Bejing Review which contained detailed reports from the National People’s Congress (NPC) in China. It contained an extended section devoted to profiles of the government leaders elected at the NPC.
As I read these profiles, I was reminded of this Scripture passage.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6
One of our goals at ChinaSource is to alert Christians around the world to the needs of unreached Chinese peoples. Historically, we (along with many others) have focused on the minorities of China, and we rejoice that interest in taking the gospel to these needy people groups has begun to grow. More recently, we have been stirred by the needs of unreached peoples among the Han majority, many of them defined by socio-cultural rather than ethno-linguistic factors. The leaders of the government of China constitute one such group.
Note the instruction given us in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for such people. We are urged to communicate with God in four different ways concerning these leaders: 1) to make requests for them, 2) to offer up prayers on their behalf, 3) to intercede for them, and 4) to give thanks for them. This flies in the face of our natural tendency in the current political climate, especially for those of us who are Americans. We tend to see these individuals as our enemies, especially when we hear of the persecution of Christians in China. We tend to react to God’s instruction to pray for them like Jonah did when he was called to take the gospel to the Ninevites: we go the opposite way.
The Scripture does not ignore our concerns. The first specific outcome we are to seek through our prayers relates to persecution: “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (v.2). We ought to be concerned about the suffering of our brothers and sisters in China. However, the biblical prescription for dealing with such problems is not to strive to correct the situation through political action, but to pray.
The Scriptures remind us that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:11-12). Our enemies are not the human leaders of China, even those who are directly responsible for persecution of Christians. No, our enemies are the evil spiritual beings assigned by Satan to oppose the work of God in China. God wants the leaders of China, too, to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He sent His only Son to die for them.
It is easier for us to have compassion on the little girls in the dying rooms of China’s orphanages than on those who cause their suffering, but that reflects our human emotions, not God’s heart. He does care for those who suffer — deeply. But His grace and mercy are so great that they also extend to those who cause their suffering.
That is not to say that God will overlook the sins of those who cause others to suffer. His wrath is being justly stored up against those who perpetrate abuses upon others. If they are to escape the judgement that awaits them, they must repent and humbly put their trust in Jesus Christ. And of course, to believe in Him, they must hear of Him.
In this connection, I was struck with the fact that almost all of these leaders studied at foreign universities at some point in their lives. In the past, those universities were primarily in Russia. Today, most of them are in America, though they are also scattered throughout the world. As we pray for the current leaders of China, let’s not forget the future leaders of China, many of whom are studying at universities right next door to us. Let’s pray that God will thrust forth laborers into the harvest field they represent (Matt. 9:38). A suggestion: pray this prayer with your eyes open, in front of a mirror! Contact International Students, Inc (PO Box C, Colorado Springs, CO 80901) for information on how you can be part of the answer to your prayers.
We see also an application to the larger issue of discipling panta ta ethne of China. There are hundreds of ethno-linguistic peoples, and thousands of socio-cultural people groups in China, the vast majority of which are still unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The leadership of China is a factor that determines, to some extent, the church’s ability to fulfill our Lord’s commission to disciple these peoples.
These leaders’ power, of course, is limited. God said to the Pharaoh who enslaved the Israelites, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16). Like the rulers of China, Pharaoh refused to give God’s people freedom to fully do God’s will. He was willing to let them worship, within severely proscribed parameters, but he insisted on maintaining ultimate control over them (see Exo. 9:28). Through many and severe plagues God showed this arrogant ruler that He, not Pharaoh, was God, and persuaded him to let His people go.
In like manner, God can show the rulers of China that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and persuade them to give the church freedom to do God’s will. That freedom includes more than worshipping in designated places at designated times under the oversight of designated officials. It includes, among other things, permission to take the gospel to the multitudes in China who have never heard the name of Jesus.
I wonder, as I read of the floods, economic crises, earthquakes and other catastrophes in China, if God is not dealing with China much as He dealt with Egypt in days of old. Of course, the same could be said of many nations, including the United States. Such events, wherever and whenever they occur, should serve as reminders to all of us of the coming judgment of God upon all nations, and motivate us to repent of our sins and pray for the leaders of our own nation.
The problems facing the government of China are overwhelming. The key, of course, to ungodly people seeing God’s hand in the events that affect them, is having a spokesman for God to interpret these events. May God raise up men and women who will speak to the leaders of China (and other nations as well), as Moses did to the Pharaoh.
Let’s pray for the leaders of China, both current and future, that they will come to acknowledge the sovereignty of the true God over China, and that many among them will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Let’s ask God to give them wisdom to govern well, and to restrain or remove those who oppose His will, that a climate favorable to the advance of the kingdom of God in China might be created.